The Motivated Processing of Political Arguments

36 Pages Posted: 29 Sep 2008  

Charles S. Taber

Stony Brook University - Department of Political Science

Damon M. Cann

Utah State University - Department of Political Science

Simona Kucsova

Grand Valley State University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: September 25, 2008

Abstract

We report the results of an experiment designed to replicate and extend recent findings on motivated political reasoning. In particular, we are interested in disconfirmation biases - the tendency to counter-argue or discount information with which one disagrees - in the processing of political arguments on policy issues. Our experiment examines 8 issues, including some of local relevance and some of national relevance, and manipulates the presentation format of the policy arguments. We find strong support for our basic disconfirmation hypothesis: people seem unable to ignore their prior beliefs when processing arguments or evidence. We also find that this bias is moderated by political sophistication and strength of prior attitude. We do not find, however, that argument type matters, suggesting that motivated biases are quite robust to changes in argument format. Finally, we find strong support for the polarization of attitudes as a consequence of biased processing.

Keywords: motivated reasoning, experimental design, disconfirmation bias

JEL Classification: D72

Suggested Citation

Taber, Charles S. and Cann, Damon M. and Kucsova, Simona, The Motivated Processing of Political Arguments (September 25, 2008). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1274028 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1274028

Charles S. Taber (Contact Author)

Stony Brook University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Stony Brook, 11794-4392
United States
631-632-7659 (Phone)
631-632-4116 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.stonybrook.edu/polsci/ctaber

Damon M. Cann

Utah State University - Department of Political Science ( email )

0725 University Blvd.
Logan, UT 84322-0725
United States

Simona Kucsova

Grand Valley State University - Department of Political Science ( email )

1101 Au Sable Hall
Allendale, MI 49401
United States

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