The Role of Affective Involvement and Knowledge in Processing Mixed Evidence for Social Issues

AbstractExposure to mixed evidence can lead to polarization, or adopting a more extreme version of one’s initial attitude. One potential reason for this is attitude congruency bias, rating evidence that supports one's attitude as stronger than evidence that undermines it. Here we explore factors associated with this bias and their relationship to attitude change following exposure to mixed evidence. We conducted several tests, including an attitude survey on two controversial social issues, a poll regarding participants’ affective involvement in each issue, an argument rating task, and assessments of knowledge about social issues and political sophistication. We replicated the attitude congruency bias. Ratings bias was associated with affective involvement, but not with measures of topic knowledge or political sophistication. Attitude change was predicted by a linear combination of objective argument strength and rating bias. Participants’ sensitivity to objective argument strength suggests the attitude congruency bias does not inevitably lead to polarization.

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