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Hearing the other side? Debiasing political opinions in the case of the scottish independence referendum


Colombo, Céline (2018). Hearing the other side? Debiasing political opinions in the case of the scottish independence referendum. Political Studies, 66(1):23-42.

Abstract

This study reports the effects of two debiasing strategies on the complexity of people’s thinking on a controversial policy issue – the question of Scottish independence. I start from the well-researched assumptions of motivated reasoning theory that individuals tend to protect their beliefs, are often not willing to hear the other side and fail to integrate contrasting arguments and different perspectives in their political considerations – although considering different viewpoints is a fundamental normative requirement for democratic decision-making. Two different debiasing techniques, which are meant to counteract this tendency and to evoke more integrative and complex thinking, were tested experimentally: a cognitive and a motivational strategy. The experiment was situated in the context of the Scottish independence referendum. The expectation of accountability – having to justify one’s opinion in front of unknown others – significantly enhanced integrative complexity of thinking about the issue, while inducing subjects to consider the opposite had no significant effect. Opinion strength and political knowledge did not affect the treatment effects significantly.

Abstract

This study reports the effects of two debiasing strategies on the complexity of people’s thinking on a controversial policy issue – the question of Scottish independence. I start from the well-researched assumptions of motivated reasoning theory that individuals tend to protect their beliefs, are often not willing to hear the other side and fail to integrate contrasting arguments and different perspectives in their political considerations – although considering different viewpoints is a fundamental normative requirement for democratic decision-making. Two different debiasing techniques, which are meant to counteract this tendency and to evoke more integrative and complex thinking, were tested experimentally: a cognitive and a motivational strategy. The experiment was situated in the context of the Scottish independence referendum. The expectation of accountability – having to justify one’s opinion in front of unknown others – significantly enhanced integrative complexity of thinking about the issue, while inducing subjects to consider the opposite had no significant effect. Opinion strength and political knowledge did not affect the treatment effects significantly.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Political Science
Dewey Decimal Classification:320 Political science
Uncontrolled Keywords:motivated reasoning, cognitive complexity, citizen competence, referendum, direct democracy
Language:English
Date:February 2018
Deposited On:28 Nov 2018 16:33
Last Modified:24 Sep 2019 23:55
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
ISSN:0032-3217
OA Status:Closed
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1177/0032321717723486

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