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« New NAS Report on Science Literacy, Cultural Values & Political Conflict on Policy-relevant Facts | Main | Does "Actively Open Minded Thinking" Aggravate Political Polarization on Climate Change? Looks like it . . . (New paper) »

SCS vs. AOT ... latest "politically motivated reasoning steel cage match" 

So here’s a bit more on the new paper that I mentioned yesterday.

In it, Jonathan Corbin & I analyze how Actively Open-minded Thinking (AOT) relates to acceptance of (“belief in”) human-caused climate change.  AOT reflects the disposition to  seek out, engage, and give appropriate weight to evidence that challenges one’s existing beliefs (Baron 2008; Stanovich and West, 1997).

But we found that higher levels of AOT, as measured by a standard scale (Baron et al. 2015; Harat et al. 2013), magnify political polarization over the reality of human-caused climate change. 

This is surprising because AOT consists in a tendency to resist confirmation bias of the sort that would predictably reinforce partisan divisions on contested issues. So one might well have expected AOT to result in some degree of convergence, not enhanced divergence, in the beliefs of those partisans who score highest on a standard AOT measure.

As I’ve noted in some posts relating to a recent paper in the Annenbenberg Public Policy Center/Cultural Cogniton Project Science of Science Communication Initiative series (Kahan, Landrum, Carpenter, Helft & Jamieson in press), science curiosity does seem to generate that sort of convergence.  As rare glimpse of precise moment of conception of academic paper . . . click it!partisans’ science curiosity, measured by the APPC/CCP Science Curiosity Scale (SCS) increase, their acceptance of human-caused climate change uniformly increases.

Indeed, the magnification of polarization perversely associated with greater science comprehension generally is negated in individuals who score high in SCS.

Jonathan and I wanted to figure out if this was a feature SCS shared with AOT.

But in fact, the greater magnification of polarization that these reasoning dispositions manifest—a dynamic I’ve referred (or attributed) to “motivated system 2 reasoning”—seems to affect AOT, too.

So in this regard, AOT, like numeracy, CRT, and Ordinary Science Intelligence is recruited as a foot soldier in the imperial campaign of our identity-protective selves to rule over the empire of our cogntive life . . . .

Our that’s one interpretatioin. Maybe something else is going on!

But in any case, SCS alone seems to resist this tendency.

So in this sense, the paper is an outgrowth of the latest string of motivated-reasoning “seel-cage matches,” in which SCS has gone toe-to-toe, neuron-to-neuron against an all-star cast of reasoning-disposition measures and bested all of them in the search for an individual difference that counteracts the tendency of people to form and persist and beliefs that cohere with their identity-defining group affiliations.

In this ase, AOT and SCS were not in the same data set, so it was sort of a virtual cage-match. So critical, reflectiveve readers should take that into account as well in taking stock of the results.

SCS continues on its undefeated rampage in brutal cognitive steel-cage matches ... I hope everyone is wearking protective headgear! Click click click!That that into account along with all the other considerations that bear on the weight to be assigned on bit of evidence relevant to an issue or set of issues no one study or even set of studies should ever be taken to “definitively resolve.”

The advancement of knowledge consists in the permanent assimilation of all that is known without all that we may yet come to know in our assessment the relative plausibility of competing conjectures.

Now there is at least one other thing to say about my and Jon’s new paper: it’s inconsistency with the so-called “asymmetry thesis,” which posits that the incidences of politically motivated reasoning are a feature uniquely or at least predominantly associated with ideological conservatism as a personality trait (e.g., Jost et al. 2003).

More on that “tomorrow. . . .”


Baron J (2008) Thinking and deciding. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Baron J, Scott S, Fincher K, and Metz, SE (2015) Why does the cognitive reflection test (sometimes) predict utilitarian moral judgment (and other things)? Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition 4: 265-284.

Haran U, Ritov I, and Mellers BA (2013) The role of actively open-minded thinking in information acquisition, accuracy, and calibration. Judgment and Decision Making 8: 188.

Jost JT, Glaser J, Kruglanski AW, and Sulloway FJ (2003) Political conservatism as motivated social cognition. Psych. Bull. 129: 339-375.

Kahan, D.M., Landrum A.R., Carpenter, K., Helft., L., & Jamieson, K.H. Science curiosity and political information processing (in press). Advances in Political Psychology),

Stanovich KE, West RF (1997) Reasoning independently of prior belief and individual differences in actively open-minded thinking. Journal of Educational Psychology 2: 342-357.

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