By: Eric W. Dolan
People are less likely to accept new information when it conflicts with the political outcomes they want, according to research published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology:General.
The study provides some clues as to why the political climate in the United States appears to be increasingly polarized. It suggests this polarization could be related to a desirability bias rather than a confirmation bias.
“Given the well-known polarization and disagreement that exist over certain issues in the realm of politics, we were interested in what factors cause people to revise their beliefs in the political domain,” explained the study’s corresponding author, Ben Tappin of Royal Holloway, University of London. “On the one hand, classic findings from the late 1970’s suggest that we update our beliefs to incorporate new information that confirms (vs. disconfirms) our prior beliefs — even if we receive a balanced stream of both confirming and disconfirming information. This bias towards confirming information in belief revision has been suggested to underpin belief polarization.”
“On the other hand, more recent findings from the literature on self-belief revision (that is, research looking at how people revise their beliefs about themselves) suggest a similar but slightly different mechanism,” he told PsyPost. “Specifically, that we revise our beliefs to incorporate new information that is desirable (vs. undesirable). In past research, these two biases (“confirmation bias” and “desirability bias”) have been conflated. The aim of our study was try and tease these two biases apart to get a clearer picture of what may be driving belief revision in the political domain.”