Organization

San Jose State University

Project Description

Motivated Reasoning

Project Abstract

This is an early draft: Controversial issues often elicit strong emotions, which can lead to poor decision making. Evidence of varying quality may exist on both sides of these issues, but research suggests that individuals are less critical of evidence that supports their prior beliefs. This may be because individuals will expend less cognitive effort, processing consistent evidence heuristically rather than analytically. Scientists, on the other hand, are expected to critically evaluate both consistent and inconsistent evidence in their professional life. Because of this orientation, it may be that scientists are more critical of evidence that confirms their strongly held beliefs than nonscientists. Similarly, lawyers are expected to dispassionately evaluate a variety of arguments in their professional life. For this reason, it may be that lawyers are less biased when evaluating the validity of arguments than non-lawyers. In the present study, participants will be pretested to determine their beliefs on various controversial political issues. The first hypothesis of this study is that, for those issues they care strongly about, scientists will be better at detecting flaws in both consistent and inconsistent evidence than nonscientists. The second hypothesis of this study is that, for those issues they care strongly about, lawyers will be better at detecting flaws than students.

Surveys released for this project:
Questions
MotivatedReasoningTest 12
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