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      At Least Bias Is Bipartisan: A Meta-Analytic Comparison of Partisan Bias in Liberals and Conservatives

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          Abstract

          Both liberals and conservatives accuse their political opponents of partisan bias, but is there empirical evidence that one side of the political aisle is indeed more biased than the other? To address this question, we meta-analyzed the results of 51 experimental studies, involving over 18,000 participants, that examined one form of partisan bias-the tendency to evaluate otherwise identical information more favorably when it supports one's political beliefs or allegiances than when it challenges those beliefs or allegiances. Two hypotheses based on previous literature were tested: an asymmetry hypothesis (predicting greater partisan bias in conservatives than in liberals) and a symmetry hypothesis (predicting equal levels of partisan bias in liberals and conservatives). Mean overall partisan bias was robust ( r = .245), and there was strong support for the symmetry hypothesis: Liberals ( r = .235) and conservatives ( r = .255) showed no difference in mean levels of bias across studies. Moderator analyses reveal this pattern to be consistent across a number of different methodological variations and political topics. Implications of the current findings for the ongoing ideological symmetry debate and the role of partisan bias in scientific discourse and political conflict are discussed.

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          Most cited references76

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          Accounting for the effects of accountability.

          This article reviews the now extensive research literature addressing the impact of accountability on a wide range of social judgments and choices. It focuses on 4 issues: (a) What impact do various accountability ground rules have on thoughts, feelings, and action? (b) Under what conditions will accountability attenuate, have no effect on, or amplify cognitive biases? (c) Does accountability alter how people think or merely what people say they think? and (d) What goals do accountable decision makers seek to achieve? In addition, this review explores the broader implications of accountability research. It highlights the utility of treating thought as a process of internalized dialogue; the importance of documenting social and institutional boundary conditions on putative cognitive biases; and the potential to craft empirical answers to such applied problems as how to structure accountability relationships in organizations.
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            Party over policy: The dominating impact of group influence on political beliefs.

            Four studies demonstrated both the power of group influence in persuasion and people's blindness to it. Even under conditions of effortful processing, attitudes toward a social policy depended almost exclusively upon the stated position of one's political party. This effect overwhelmed the impact of both the policy's objective content and participants' ideological beliefs (Studies 1-3), and it was driven by a shift in the assumed factual qualities of the policy and in its perceived moral connotations (Study 4). Nevertheless, participants denied having been influenced by their political group, although they believed that other individuals, especially their ideological adversaries, would be so influenced. The underappreciated role of social identity in persuasion is discussed.
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              Why do humans reason? Arguments for an argumentative theory.

              Reasoning is generally seen as a means to improve knowledge and make better decisions. However, much evidence shows that reasoning often leads to epistemic distortions and poor decisions. This suggests that the function of reasoning should be rethought. Our hypothesis is that the function of reasoning is argumentative. It is to devise and evaluate arguments intended to persuade. Reasoning so conceived is adaptive given the exceptional dependence of humans on communication and their vulnerability to misinformation. A wide range of evidence in the psychology of reasoning and decision making can be reinterpreted and better explained in the light of this hypothesis. Poor performance in standard reasoning tasks is explained by the lack of argumentative context. When the same problems are placed in a proper argumentative setting, people turn out to be skilled arguers. Skilled arguers, however, are not after the truth but after arguments supporting their views. This explains the notorious confirmation bias. This bias is apparent not only when people are actually arguing, but also when they are reasoning proactively from the perspective of having to defend their opinions. Reasoning so motivated can distort evaluations and attitudes and allow erroneous beliefs to persist. Proactively used reasoning also favors decisions that are easy to justify but not necessarily better. In all these instances traditionally described as failures or flaws, reasoning does exactly what can be expected of an argumentative device: Look for arguments that support a given conclusion, and, ceteris paribus, favor conclusions for which arguments can be found.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Perspectives on Psychological Science
                Perspect Psychol Sci
                SAGE Publications
                1745-6916
                1745-6924
                May 31 2018
                May 31 2018
                : 174569161774679
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Department of Psychology & Social Behavior, University of California, Irvine
                [2 ]Department of Psychology, Kalamazoo College
                [3 ]Department of Psychology, Florida State University
                Article
                10.1177/1745691617746796
                29851554
                5a461019-688d-47ec-ae2b-9337581c6014
                © 2018

                http://journals.sagepub.com/page/policies/text-and-data-mining-license

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