Belief Overkill in Political Judgments

10 Pages Posted: 4 Jul 2009

See all articles by Jonathan Baron

Jonathan Baron

University of Pennsylvania - Department of Psychology

Date Written: June 30, 2009


When people tend toward a political decision, such as voting for the Republican Party, they are often attracted to this decision by one issue, such as the party's stance on abortion, but then they come to see other issues, such as the party's stand on taxes, as supporting their decision, even if they would not have thought so in the absence of the decision. I demonstrate this phenomenon with opinion poll data and with an experiment done on the World Wide Web using hypothetical candidates. For the hypothetical candidates, judgments about whether a candidate's position on issue A favors the candidate or the opponent are correlated with judgments about other positions taken by the candidate (as determined from other hypothetical candidates). Although this effect is small, it is greater in those subjects who rarely make conflicting judgments, in which one issue favors a candidate and another favors the opponent. In a few cases, judgments even reverse, so that a position that is counted as a minus for other candidates becomes a plus for a favored candidate. Reversals in the direction of a candidate's position are more likely when the candidate is otherwise favored. The experiment provides a new kind of demonstration of 'belief overkill,' the tendency to bring all arguments into line with a favored conclusion.

Keywords: biases, judgment, political psychlogy

Suggested Citation

Baron, Jonathan, Belief Overkill in Political Judgments (June 30, 2009). Available at SSRN: or

Jonathan Baron (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania - Department of Psychology ( email )

3815 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6196
United States
215-898-6918 (Phone)


Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics