Mad Enough to See the Other Side: Anger and the Confirmation Bias
Posted: 19 Oct 2009 Last revised: 14 Dec 2009
Date Written: October 13, 2009
The current research explores the effect of anger on hypothesis confirmation — the propensity to seek information that confirms rather than disconfirms one’s opinion. We argue that the moving against action tendency associated with anger leads angry individuals to seek out disconfirming evidence, attenuating the confirmation bias. We test this hypothesis in two studies of experimentally-primed anger and sadness on the selective exposure to hypothesis confirming and disconfirming information. In Study 1, participants in the angry condition were more likely to choose disconfirming information than those in the sad or neutral condition when given the opportunity to read about a controversial social issue. Study 2 measured participants’ opinions and information selection about the 2008 Presidential Election and the desire to ‘move against’ a person or object. Participants in the angry condition reported a greater tendency to oppose a person or object, and this tendency led them to select more disconfirming information.
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