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Asymmetry thesis--now we're going to need a meta-meta-analysis

Check out the dueling meta-analyses of "asymmetry thesis" studies!

I'll tell you what I think "tomorrow"™, but in meantime, why not tell me what you think "today"™?

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Reader Comments (12)

I don't buy that there is a significant asymmetry.

(1) What would the mechanism be? IMO, biased reasoning is based in universal psychological and cognitive attributes of humans: the need to protect our sense of self and the fundamental role that pattern-finding plays in how we make sense of the world. Those seem like very basic attributes that aren't likely distributed according to ideological beliefs. I mean maybe, maybe, in some cultures (of ideological orientation) children grow up with more of a need for identity-protection than in others,...but I would think that if so, there would be a whole battery of associated attributes that could also be identified, and certainly there are many other salient influences on how people form a secure sense of identity. (And of course, we'd have to have some explanation for how the mechanism explains an identified direction of causality).

(2) I would think that if there is a significant asymmetry, then we would see evidence of a "dose-dependent" mechanism. In other words, that people who are more strongly identified ideologically in a particular direction would display notably stronger characteristics of asymmetry. For example, And likewise, people who are more towards neutral ideologically would display a pattern of approaching neutral in a signal of the outcomes measures. Perhaps there is evidence of such a pattern, but I just haven't seen it?

(3) Even if broad generalizations were true, to what extent would it mean anything meaningful in the real world? It seems quite obvious to me that people at the different ends of the attribute spectrums in each group of libz and conz are further apart than are the means of those attributes in each group with respect to each other. Right? I mean much, much farther apart. So what do we learn from focusing our energy on highly imperfect measures to determine whether there is some asymmetry other than that people like to differentiate groups based on attributes that don't really tell us much of anything?

May 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Non-paywall version of Jost article:

May 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Totals of discrepancies measured in a list of items can be used to calculate an average if and only if the list is complete. Instead in the Jost article we have at least one list >

Table 3. Percentage of Democratic and Republican Survey Respondents Who Perceived Each of the Following Phenomena as Highly Threatening (March 2015)

> which is highly idiosyncratic and nowhere near complete. The "average" deviation is "not even wrong".

May 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

From the Ditto paper:

"There is a large and growing body of literature
associating political conservatism with a broad array of motivational orientations suggestive of
cognitive rigidity and resistance to novel or threatening information (Jost, 2017). This work is
compelling, but it is important to note that these studies focus their comparisons on individual
differences in general motivational proclivities, while our meta-analysis examined specific
judgment outcomes. As such, the two sets of studies do not directly contradict each other, but the
question still clearly arises as to why the differential motivational tendencies of liberals and
conservatives do not manifest themselves in differential susceptibility to partisan bias."

Hence, not much dueling going on here....

May 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Link Drop:

I admit this happened to me - I became a Pope Francis fan-boy after reading the encyclical.

May 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

The only thing that bugs me about my rejection of asymmetry is how there is a split in voting preferences by age...not sure what, exactly to make of that - but it does suggest that differences in flexibility in thinking, openness to new experience, life experience, etc. - attributes of the sort that might be associated with different age groups - might be associated with ideology somehow. If those associations work across age groups, then maybe they apply within age groups, also. I wonder what would happen if someone who finds asymmetry using a particular measurement tool used the same tool to measure differences across ages without examining for ideology, or by examining whether age might play a moderator/mediator role.

May 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@Jonathan-- There's no way Jost would accept the language you cited from Ditto. Jost clearly thinks that he is describing dispositions that result in biased *decisionmaking*. Indeed, he explicitly says that experimental data support his view. So if Ditto is right, Jost is wrong-- & vice versa. I think the language you cited from Ditto is just a polite way to try to say Jost is relying on wrong type of measures

May 24, 2017 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan


Is there something in the Jost paper that indicates that Jost wouldn't agree with that language from Ditto? Or, are you referring to something you know about Jost personally?

The closest thing I could find in the Jost paper to what Ditto is measuring is this:

"Previous research focusing on
traditional media usage was inconclusive. Some studies turned up symmetrical patterns of selec-
tive exposure and dissonance avoidance on the part of liberals and conservatives (Iyengar &
Hahn, 2009, Knobloch-Westerwick & Meng, 2009; Munro et al., 2002; Nisbet, Cooper, & Gar-
rett, 2015), whereas others indicated that conservatives were indeed more likely than liberals to
exhibit these behaviors (Garrett, 2009; Iyengar, Hahn, Krosnick, & Walker, 2008; Lau & Red-
lawsk, 2006; Mutz, 2006; Nyhan & Reifler, 2010; Sears & Freedman, 1967)."

Which sounds kind of meh, especially compared to all of the other things Jost mentions in that paper. But, this is still not talking about a test induced effect to measure bias, as in Ditto.

I like Ditto's test, except for the part where the authors seem to believe that subjects can accurately differentiate between their belief in the study vs. its strength, or as they say: "participants’ evaluations are specifically focused on the validity or quality of the
information provided rather than a general assessment of the information’s conclusion.". I don't think most people can do that - and if this part of their test isn't as they predicted, then the test result washes out as perhaps merely an indicator of priors.

I'd rather that Ditto had manufactured fictional studies that would not fall prey to potentially different priors, and so wouldn't rely on subjects' abilities to differentiate belief from the study's strength.

May 24, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

@Jonathan -- the point of measures like " 'tolerance of ambiguity, cognitive rigidity, dogmatism, integrative complexity, personal needs for order and structure, need for cognitive closure, uncertainty tolerance, cognitive reflection, and need for cognition,' " is to identify decisionmaking tendencies. Indeed, if they *didn't* do that--if tehre were no correlation between such measures & biased decisionmaking--the measures would all be invalid; that is, they wouldn't *be* predictors of behavior that reflects the constructs that these measures are supposed to represent.

And yes, there are places through paper in which Jost indicates that conservs are more prone to biased perceptions. Eg., p 170:

In sociology and political science, the theory of political ideology as motivated social cognition
has been applied to core topics of the discipline such as domestic and foreign policy making as well as voting behavior, motivated reasoning, and right-wing terrorism (Gambetta & Hertog, 2016; Gries, 2014; Hibbing, Smith, & Alford, 2014b; Rathbun, 2014). Taken as a whole, this work supports the observation made by contemporary scholars of American politics that members of the Republican Party are more ideologically zealous than members of the Democratic Party, and they are rather intolerant of those who deviate from conservative values and principles

It's true, too, that Jost qualifies & hedges in the paper. I think this is a kind of rhetorical clinching: it allows him to minimize importance of studies showing symmetry in motivated reasoning & like forms of ideological partisanship. "Didn't say liberals *never* are biased, just that conservs are more often" etc.

May 25, 2017 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan


"Indeed, if they *didn't* do that--if tehre were no correlation between such measures & biased decisionmaking--the measures would all be invalid; that is, they wouldn't *be* predictors of behavior that reflects the constructs that these measures are supposed to represent."

I guess that means you disagree with Ditto's assessment of the difference.

OK - but what if cognitive measures vs. bias are related in a way similar to genotype vs. phenotype. There are different cognitive genotypes that produce a similar bias phenotype. In such a case, one would look closely at the environmental pressure that makes such a similar phenotype arise from different genotypes - and probably this means that, at least in the time period important to genotypic evolution, this bias phenotype was adaptive to such environments. Maybe even still is adaptive in a subset of the current environment.

Obviously, we're here because we agree that some biases are maladaptive in some important subsets of the current environment. Isn't it then rather unlikely that the same "cures" would work regardless of the genotype? That makes understanding the distinct genotypes important.

I also don't think I've seen any Jost that directly studies the biased phenotype - just a lot of Jost that points out aspects of the conservative genotype that one might, in the absence of direct evidence, believe would indirectly contribute to greater bias. It's as if Jost is saying "Look how well adapted fish are to swimming - considering this, don't you think they are excellent swimmers?" while largely ignoring the fact that cetaceans with very different adaptations are excellent swimmers as well.

May 25, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

"the point of measures like [...] is to identify decisionmaking tendencies. Indeed, if they *didn't* do that--if tehre were no correlation between such measures & biased decisionmaking--the measures would all be invalid; that is, they wouldn't *be* predictors of behavior that reflects the constructs that these measures are supposed to represent."

Indeed. But that doesn't imply that the measures measure what they're claimed to. It might just mean they're all invalid. :-)

May 25, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

@Jonathan-- I think Ditto was being very polite.

On geno- and phenotype: how does one ever test Jost's measures once he is reduced to saying that they are biased decisionmaking precursors that haven't manifested themselves -- yet -- in biased decisionmaking? CRT & numeracy can both be shown to result in forms of biased reasoning --that's how we know they are valid.

In any case, Jost also doesn't address the evidence that those who score highest on objective measures of cogntive proficiency are *more* inclined, not less, to engage in motivated reasoning? If we accept Jost's measures as valid ones of the constructs they correspond to, then that would imply liberals should be "better at" fitting beliefs to their identity... Consider this, e.g.

May 26, 2017 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

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