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
Date Written: November 18, 2020
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: Suggested Citation