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Biased assimilation and attitude polarization: The effects of prior theories on subsequently considered evidence

Biased assimilation and attitude polarization: The effects of prior theories on subsequently... 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. (28 ref) http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Personality and Social Psychology American Psychological Association

Biased assimilation and attitude polarization: The effects of prior theories on subsequently considered evidence

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References (34)

Publisher
American Psychological Association
Copyright
Copyright © 1979 American Psychological Association
ISSN
0022-3514
eISSN
1939-1315
DOI
10.1037/0022-3514.37.11.2098
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

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. (28 ref)

Journal

Journal of Personality and Social PsychologyAmerican Psychological Association

Published: Nov 1, 1979

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