The False and the Furious: People are more disturbed by others' false beliefs than by differences in beliefs

23 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2020 Last revised: 29 Dec 2020

See all articles by Andras Molnar

Andras Molnar

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

George Loewenstein

Carnegie Mellon University - Department of Social and Decision Sciences

Date Written: November 18, 2020

Abstract

We propose an alternative account to the conventional theory of belief homophily--that people have an intrinsic distaste for encountering differences in beliefs. We argue that when people face others who hold beliefs different from their own, they do not find these encounters disturbing because others hold different beliefs per se, but because they are convinced that others hold false beliefs. In five pre-registered studies (N = 2,835, MTurk) featuring self-recalled personal experiences and vignette scenarios, we demonstrate that participants express stronger negative feelings when others hold false beliefs, compared to when others' beliefs are merely different from their own. We also show that higher confidence that others hold false beliefs--but not different beliefs--evokes stronger negative emotions and triggers avoidance behaviors. Finally, we highlight that people are primarily disturbed by others holding false beliefs when the negative consequences of these beliefs might affect someone who they care about.

Keywords: beliefs, false beliefs, homophily, polarization, belief-dissonance

JEL Classification: D03, D80

Suggested Citation

Molnar, Andras and Loewenstein, George F., The False and the Furious: People are more disturbed by others' false beliefs than by differences in beliefs (November 18, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3524651 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3524651

Andras Molnar (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 S Woodlawn Ave
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

George F. Loewenstein

Carnegie Mellon University - Department of Social and Decision Sciences ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States
412-268-8787 (Phone)
412-268-6938 (Fax)

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