Motivated Reasoning

Motivated reasoning: A rough definition. The concept of believing something because you want it to be true - and focusing on evidence that supports your belief, perhaps dismissing contradictory information.

The example of climate change.

Personally, I don't really know whether climate change is real or not. I'm not a climate scientist, and while I'm scientifically literate, particularly when it comes to psychological, hormonal or nutritional studies, I have never really studied climate science. I am, however, aware that broadly a scientific consensus that climate change is occurring. As a basic heuristic, I take that as cause for concern, however, as always, I'm skeptical unless I've had a good look at the data myself!

Observations: Liberals often believe in climate change. Very few will understand the nuances of the scientific processes that led them there.

Dan Kahan found in conservatives it is the most scientifically literate who are less likely to accept climate change. Perhaps the better one is at understanding science, the more one can find evidence to back up your beliefs.
- Motivations: free-market ideology, dislike of Government regulations.

Scientific Curiosity is Protective
- Important distinction: The difference between the scientifically literate and the scientifically curious.
- Scientifically curious more likely to seek out info that contradicts their beliefs.

Who is scientifically curious
- There is a 1.4x greater chance that a person will score at the 90th percentile if that person is male rather than female
- 1.5x greater chance that the person will do so if he or she has political outlooks to the "left" of center rather than the "right".
- There is a comparable relative probability (1.3x) that a person will score in the 90th percentile of SCS if he or she is below average rather than above average in religiosity

Stephan Lewandowsky of the University of Bristol says, “If I ask people four questions about the free market, I can predict attributes towards climate science with 60% accuracy.”

Simple presentation (simple graphs) can help persuade.
We find that delivering corrective information in graphical form successfully decreases reported misperceptions relative to controls

Who is least susceptible to motivated reasoning?
Is an attitude of thoroughness protective?