Explanation-Oriented (vs. Free) Discussion Promotes Open-Minded Political Reasoning

49 Pages Posted: 24 Feb 2023

See all articles by Abdo Elnakouri

Abdo Elnakouri

University of Waterloo

Alex C. Huynh

California State University

Igor Grossmann

University of Waterloo

Abstract

Cognitive scientists suggest that prompting people to explain (rather than freely discuss) contentious political issues might reduce intergroup toxicity because it exposes people to how poorly they understand the issue. However, whether explanation-oriented discussion can result in less polarized and more open-minded political discourse remains unclear. On one hand, asking people to explain a political issue might make them more impartial and open-minded in their reasoning. On the other hand, elaboration on a contentious political issue might promote rationalization of one’s default position. Here, we address these contrasting predictions. Results from three experiments (N = 1,884; two pre-registered), conducted with US residents at the peak of the 2012 and 2016 U.S. presidential elections and with UK residents in the last month preceding the highly polarized 2019 Brexit vote, show that prompting people to engage in an explanation-oriented (vs. free discussion) resulted in more open-minded reasoning, an effect that generalized across coded (Studies 1-3) and self-report (Study 3) measures. We also found evidence that engaging in an explanation-oriented (vs. free) discussion led people to be less self-invested (Studies 1, 3), more self-distanced (Studies 1, 3), and feel closer to their discussion partner (Study 3). We discuss theoretical implications of these findings, and the potential explanation-oriented discussions hold for fostering open-minded political engagement.

Keywords: open-minded reasoning, explanation, political discussion, mechanistic reasoning, wisdom, political polarization

Suggested Citation

Elnakouri, Abdo and Huynh, Alex C. and Grossmann, Igor, Explanation-Oriented (vs. Free) Discussion Promotes Open-Minded Political Reasoning. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4369067 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4369067

Abdo Elnakouri (Contact Author)

University of Waterloo ( email )

Waterloo, N2L 3G1
Canada

Alex C. Huynh

California State University ( email )

Igor Grossmann

University of Waterloo ( email )

Waterloo, N2L 3G1
Canada

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