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Motivated Skepticism in the Evaluation of Political Beliefs

American Journal of Political Science, vol.50 no.3 pp.755-769, July 2006


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Resource information:
Resource IDtaberlodge2006
Resource titleMotivated Skepticism in the Evaluation of Political Beliefs
Author(s)Charles S. Taber, Milton Lodge
Publication/ sourceAmerican Journal of Political Science, vol.50 no.3 pp.755-769
Date publishedJuly 2006
Summary text/ abstractWe propose a model of motivated skepticism that helps explain when and why citizens are biased-information processors. Two experimental studies explore how citizens evaluate arguments about affirmative action and gun control, finding strong evidence ofa prior attitude effect such that attitudinally congruent arguments are evaluated as stronger than attitudinally incongruent arguments. When reading pro and con arguments, participants (Ps) counterargue the contrary arguments and uncritically accept supporting arguments, evidence of a disconfirmation bias. We also find a confirmation bias – the seeking out of confirmatory evidence – when Ps are free to self-select the source of the arguments they read. Both the confirmation and disconfirmation biases lead to attitude polarization – the strengthening of t2 over t1 attitudes – especially among those with the strongest priors and highest levels of political sophistication. We conclude with a discussion of the normative implications of these findings for rational behavior in a democracy.
Library categoriesPolitics
Added to Free Range Library14/10/2014
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