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Causal Illusions in the Service of Political Attitudes in Spain and the United Kingdom

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      The causal illusion is a cognitive bias that results in the perception of causality where there is no supporting evidence. We show that people selectively exhibit the bias, especially in those situations where it favors their current worldview as revealed by their political orientation. In our two experiments (one conducted in Spain and one conducted in the United Kingdom), participants who self-positioned themselves on the ideological left formed the illusion that a left-wing ruling party was more successful in improving city indicators than a right-wing party, while participants on the ideological right tended to show the opposite pattern. In sum, despite the fact that the same information was presented to all participants, people developed the causal illusion bias selectively, providing very different interpretations that aligned with their previous attitudes. This result occurs in situations where participants inspect the relationship between the government’s actions and positive outcomes (improving city indicators) but not when the outcomes are negative (worsening city indicators).

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            Author and article information

            1Departamento de Fundamentos y Métodos de la Psicología, University of Deusto , Bilbao, Spain
            2Facultad de Ciencias Sociales y Humanas, University of Deusto , Bilbao, Spain
            Author notes

            Edited by: Jeremy A. Frimer, University of Winnipeg, Canada

            Reviewed by: Guillermo B. Willis, Universidad de Granada, Spain; Gayannee Kedia, University of Graz, Austria

            *Correspondence: Fernando Blanco, fernandoblanco@

            This article was submitted to Personality and Social Psychology, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology

            Front Psychol
            Front Psychol
            Front. Psychol.
            Frontiers in Psychology
            Frontiers Media S.A.
            28 June 2018
            : 9
            Copyright © 2018 Blanco, Gómez-Fortes and Matute.

            This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

            Figures: 8, Tables: 10, Equations: 1, References: 49, Pages: 14, Words: 0
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