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Ideology, motivated reasoning, and cognitive reflection

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  • Dan M. Kahan

Abstract

Decision scientists have identified various plausible sources of ideological polarization over climate change, gun violence, national security, and like issues that turn on empirical evidence. This paper describes a study of three of them: the predominance of heuristic-driven information processing by members of the public; ideologically motivated reasoning; and the cognitive-style correlates of political conservativism. The study generated both observational and experimental data inconsistent with the hypothesis that political conservatism is distinctively associated with either unreflective thinking or motivated reasoning. Conservatives did no better or worse than liberals on the Cognitive Reflection Test (Frederick, 2005), an objective measure of information-processing dispositions associated with cognitive biases. In addition, the study found that ideologically motivated reasoning is not a consequence of over-reliance on heuristic or intuitive forms of reasoning generally. On the contrary, subjects who scored highest in cognitive reflection were the most likely to display ideologically motivated cognition. These findings corroborated an alternative hypothesis, which identifies ideologically motivated cognition as a form of information processing that promotes individuals' interests in forming and maintaining beliefs that signify their loyalty to important affinity groups. The paper discusses the practical significance of these findings, including the need to develop science communication strategies that shield policy-relevant facts from the influences that turn them into divisive symbols of political identity.

Suggested Citation

  • Dan M. Kahan, 2013. "Ideology, motivated reasoning, and cognitive reflection," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 8(4), pages 407-424, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:jdm:journl:v:8:y:2013:i:4:p:407-424
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Justin F. Landy, 2016. "Representations of moral violations: Category members and associated features," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 11(5), pages 496-508, September.
    2. repec:eee:ecolec:v:142:y:2017:i:c:p:295-305 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Mark Burgman, 2015. "Governance for Effective Policy-Relevant Scientific Research: The Shared Governance Model," Asia and the Pacific Policy Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 2(3), pages 441-451, September.
    4. Onurcan Yilmaz & S. Adil Saribay, 2016. "An attempt to clarify the link between cognitive style and political ideology: A non-western replication and extension," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 11(3), pages 287-300, May.
    5. Joanna Sterling & John T. Jost & Gordon Pennycook, 2016. "Are neoliberals more susceptible to bullshit?," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 11(4), pages 352-360, July.
    6. Justin O. Parkhurst, 2016. "Appeals to evidence for the resolution of wicked problems: the origins and mechanisms of evidentiary bias," Policy Sciences, Springer;Society of Policy Sciences, vol. 49(4), pages 373-393, December.
    7. Onurcan Yilmaz & S. Adil Saribay, 2017. "The relationship between cognitive style and political orientation depends on the measures used," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 12(2), pages 140-147, March.
    8. McFadden, Brandon R. & Lusk, Jayson L., 2015. "Cognitive biases in the assimilation of scientific information on global warming and genetically modified food," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 35-43.
    9. Kristen D. Deppe & Frank J. Gonzalez & Jayme L. Neiman & Carly Jacobs & Jackson Pahlke & Kevin B. Smith & John R. Hibbing, 2015. "Reflective liberals and intuitive conservatives: A look at the Cognitive Reflection Test and ideology," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 10(4), pages 314-331, July.
    10. repec:kap:jbioec:v:19:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1007_s10818-016-9238-3 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Christenson, Dino P. & Goldfarb, Jillian L. & Kriner, Douglas L., 2017. "Costs, benefits, and the malleability of public support for “Fracking”," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 105(C), pages 407-417.

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