Biased Assimilation and Attitude Polarization: The Effects of Prior Theories
Lord, Ross & Lepper (1979)

People who hold strong opinions on complex social issues are likely to examine relevant empirical evidence in a biased manner. They are apt to accept “confirming” evidence at face value while subjecting “disconfirming” evidence to critical evaluation, and, as a result, draw undue support for their initial positions from mixed or random empirical findings. Thus, the result of exposing contending factions in a social dispute to an identical body of relevant empirical evidence may be not a narrowing of disagreement but rather an increase in polarization. To test these assumptions, 48 undergraduates supporting and opposing capital punishment were exposed to 2 purported studies, one seemingly confirming and one seemingly disconfirming their existing beliefs about the deterrent efficacy of the death penalty. As predicted, both proponents and opponents of capital punishment rated those results and procedures that confirmed their own beliefs to be the more convincing and probative ones, and they reported corresponding shifts in their beliefs as the various results and procedures were presented. The net effect of such evaluations and opinion shifts was the postulated increase in attitude polarization.

Lord, Ross & Lepper (1979) by enki2

Category: Cognitive Foibles, Psychology, Think Tank

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

7 Responses to “Biased Assimilation and Attitude Polarization”

  1. RW says:

    “It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.” -Epictetus (ca 100 AD)

    • RW says:

      A case in point:

      The Arguments of the Great Recession Are Over. Hooray.

      If the economy were not heading into a massive depression, or if deficits were driving interest rates high, then opposing large fiscal stimulus would make a lot of sense. Likewise, if sky-high inequality were receding, then long-term concerns about the gap between the top one percent and everybody else ought to weigh a bit less heavily on us.

      But none of these arguments were true. And conservatives have made precious little effort to replace them with other arguments.

      …yet the Republican Party marches on, opposing any effort to lift short-term austerity policies that economists almost all believe are holding back the recovery. It’s as if the head of the austerity monster has been sliced off, but the body lurches forward regardless.

      …The great economic arguments of the recession are over, and it turns out not to matter.

  2. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    Not surprising. Our psyches are based on beliefs, not knowledge or fact. We are clueless as to the ‘why’ of anything. In the end, all we have is opinion. No wonder we cling to those biases that support the constructs of our personal “realities.”

    Or not.

  3. zman1527 says:

    I just finished reading a book very much related to this “The Republican Brain” by Chris Mooney. There is a lot scientific research along these lines that strongly confirms the above. The most significant finding though was that this trait is much strong among conservatives resulting in what we see so much these days from that side of the aisle: a strong disconnect from reality by many of them.

  4. Frilton Miedman says:

    Confirmation bias

    Sounds like ALEC & The Heritage Foundation.

    Groups of the wealthiest people on the planet in echo chambers reinforcing the belief that increasing their wealth benefits the majority of the populace who aren’t there to counter that argument, using generic blanket statements like “tyranny of the majority” & cherry picking snippets from the Federalist papers to rationalize.not listening to outside views. Justifying vote rigging, political manipulation & bribery as the interest of the greater good…according to their “empirical” evidence.

  5. MikeR44 says:

    Fine, I understand, and it clarifies what I have been aware about many people. My question is, “What do we do about it? How can we improve communication between those with different viewpoints. In order to accomplish beneficial change we need to compromise and co-operate with each other. Maybe it will take a threat to our very existence. Let’s hope this human flaw is not fatal. Mike

  6. Mal Williams says:

    I understand that over the last few decades there has been a large growth in the percentage of US economist employed by the big money in politics to find evidence and proof of predetermined political positions and, as a consequent, decrease in the percentage performing unbiased academic analysis of issues. If true, this is another negative effect of big money in politics on our society. Are you aware of any attempt to verify or quantify this trend?