Skip to main content
×
×
Home

The automatic nature of motivated belief updating

  • ANDREAS KAPPES (a1) and TALI SHAROT (a2)
Abstract

People's risk estimates often do not align with the evidence available to them. In particular, people tend to discount bad news (such as evidence suggesting their risk of being involved in a car accident is higher than they thought) as compared to good news (evidence suggesting it is lower) – this is known as the belief update bias. It has been assumed that individuals use motivated reasoning to rationalise away unwanted evidence (e.g., “I am a safe driver, thus these statistics do not apply to me”). However, whether reasoning is required to discount bad news has not been tested directly. Here, we restrict cognitive resources using a cognitive load (Experiment 1) and a time restriction manipulation (Experiment 3) and find that while these manipulations diminish learning in general, they do not diminish the bias. Furthermore, we also show that the relative neglect of bad news happens the moment new evidence is presented, not when participants are subsequently prompted to state their belief (Experiment 2). Our findings suggest that reasoning is not required for bad news to be discounted as compared to good news.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      The automatic nature of motivated belief updating
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      The automatic nature of motivated belief updating
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      The automatic nature of motivated belief updating
      Available formats
      ×
Copyright
Corresponding author
*Correspondence to: Department of Psychology, City, University of London, London, UK. Email: kappes.andreas@gmail.com
References
Hide All
Beck, A. T., Steer, R. A., Ball, R., and Ranieri, W. (1996), ‘Comparison of Beck Depression Inventories -IA and -II in psychiatric outpatients’, Journal of Personality Assessment, 67(3): 588597.
Carver, C. S., and Scheier, M. F. (2014), ‘Dispositional Optimism’, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 18(6): 293299.
Carver, C. S., Scheier, M. F., and Segerstrom, S. C. (2010), ‘Optimism’, Clinical Psychology Review, 30(7): 879889.
Chowdhury, R., Sharot, T., Wolfe, T., Düzel, E., and Dolan, R. J. (2014), ‘Optimistic update bias increases in older age’, Psychological Medicine, 44(09): 20032012.
Conway, P., and Gawronski, B. (2013), ‘Deontological and utilitarian inclinations in moral decision making: a process dissociation approach’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 104(2): 216235.
DeShon, R. P., Brown, K. G., and Greenis, J. L. (1996), ‘Does self-regulation require cognitive resources? Evaluation of resource allocation models of goal setting’, The Journal of Applied Psychology, 81(5): 595608.
Ditto, P. H., and Lopez, D. F. (1992), ‘Motivated skepticism: Use of differential decision criteria for preferred and nonpreferred conclusions’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63(4): 568.
Ditto, P. H., Pizarro, D. A., and Tannenbaum, D. (2009), Chapter 10 Motivated Moral Reasoning. In Ross, B. H. (Ed.), Psychology of Learning and Motivation (Vol. 50, pp. 307–338), Academic Press. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0079742108004106
Dolan, R. J., and Dayan, P. (2013), ‘Goals and Habits in the Brain’, Neuron, 80(2): 312325.
Eil, D., and Rao, J. M. (2011), ‘The Good News-Bad News Effect: Asymmetric Processing of Objective Information about Yourself’, American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, 3(2): 114138.
Faul, F., Erdfelder, E., Buchner, A., and Lang, A.-G. (2009), ‘Statistical power analyses using G*Power 3.1: Tests for correlation and regression analyses’, Behavior Research Methods, 41(4): 11491160.
Garrett, N., and Sharot, T. (2014), ‘How robust is the optimistic update bias for estimating self-risk and population base rates’? Retrieved from http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0098848
Garrett, N., and Sharot, T. (2017), ‘Optimistic update bias holds firm: Three tests of robustness following Shah et al. ’, Consciousness and Cognition, 50(Supplement C): 1222.
Garrett, N., Sharot, T., Faulkner, P., Korn, C. W., Roiser, J. P., and Dolan, R. J. (2014), ‘Losing the rose tinted glasses: neural substrates of unbiased belief updating in depression’, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4147849/
Gilbert, D. T., Tafarodi, R. W., and Malone, P. S. (1993), ‘You can't not believe everything you read’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65(2): 221233.
Haidt, J. (2001), ‘The emotional dog and its rational tail: A social intuitionist approach to moral judgment’, Psychological Review, 108(4): 814834.
Haidt, J., Bjorklund, F., and Murphy, S. (2000), ‘Moral dumbfounding: When intuition finds no reason’, Unpublished Manuscript, University of Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.faculty.virginia.edu/haidtlab/articles/manuscripts/haidt.bjorklund.working-paper.when%20intuition%20finds%20no%20reason.pub603.doc
Hamilton, L. C., Cutler, M. J., and Schaefer, A. (2012), ‘Public knowledge and concern about polar-region warming’, Polar Geography, 35(2): 155168.
Haselton, M. G., and Nettle, D. (2006), ‘The Paranoid Optimist: An Integrative Evolutionary Model of Cognitive Biases’, Personality and Social Psychology Review, 10(1): 4766.
Heine, S. J., Lehman, D. R., Markus, H. R., and Kitayama, S. (1999), ‘Is there a universal need for positive self-regard’?, Psychological Review, 106(4): 766.
Hernandez, R., Kershaw, K. N., Siddique, J., Boehm, J. K., Kubzansky, L. D., Diez-Roux, A., and Lloyd-Jones, D. M. (2015), ‘Optimism and cardiovascular health: multi-ethnic study of atherosclerosis (MESA)’, Health Behavior and Policy Review, 2(1): 6273.
Johnson, D. D. P., and Fowler, J. H. (2011), ‘The evolution of overconfidence’, Nature, 477(7364): 317320.
Kahan, D. M., Peters, E., Dawson, E. C., and Slovic, P. (2017), ‘Motivated numeracy and enlightened self-government’. Behavioural Public Policy, 1(1): 5486.
Korn, C. W., Sharot, T., Walter, H., Heekeren, H. R., and Dolan, R. J. (2014), ‘Depression is related to an absence of optimistically biased belief updating about future life events’, Psychological Medicine, 44(3): 579592.
Kunda, Z. (1990), ‘The case for motivated reasoning’, Psychological Bulletin, 108(3): 480.
Kuzmanovic, B., Jefferson, A., and Vogeley, K. (2015), ‘Self-specific Optimism Bias in Belief Updating Is Associated with High Trait Optimism’, Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 28(3): 281293.
Lefebvre, G., Lebreton, M., Meyniel, F., Bourgeois-Gironde, S., and Palminteri, S. (2017), ‘Behavioural and neural characterization of optimistic reinforcement learning’, Nature Human Behaviour, 1: 0067.
Lovallo, D., and Kahneman, D. (2003), ‘Delusions of success’, Harvard Business Review, 81(7): 5663.
Love, J., Selker, R., Marsman, M., Jamil, T., Verhagen, A. J., Ly, A., and others. (2015), ‘JASP (Version 0.7)’, Computer Software.
McKay, R. T., and Dennett, D. C. (2009), ‘The evolution of misbelief’, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 32(06): 493510.
Mercier, H., and Sperber, D. (2011), ‘Why do humans reason? Arguments for an argumentative theory’, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 34(02): 5774.
Moors, A., and De Houwer, J. (2006), ‘Automaticity: a theoretical and conceptual analysis’, Psychological Bulletin, 132(2): 297.
Moutsiana, C., Garrett, N., Clarke, R. C., Lotto, R. B., Blakemore, S.-J., and Sharot, T. (2013), ‘Human development of the ability to learn from bad news’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(41): 1639616401.
Nickerson, R. S. (1998), ‘Confirmation bias: A ubiquitous phenomenon in many guises’, Review of General Psychology, 2(2): 175220.
Rand, D. G., Greene, J. D., and Nowak, M. A. (2012), ‘Spontaneous giving and calculated greed’, Nature, 489(7416): 427430.
Rouder, J. N., , Speckman, P. L., Sun, D., Morey, R. D., and Iverson, G. (2009), ‘Bayesian t tests for accepting and rejecting the null hypothesis’, Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 16(2): 225237.
Royzman, E. B., Kim, K., and Leeman, R. F. (2015), ‘The curious tale of Julie and Mark: Unraveling the moral dumbfounding effect’, Judgment and Decision Making, 10(4): 296.
Sharot, T., and Garrett, N. (2016), ‘Forming Beliefs: Why Valence Matters’, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 20(1): 2533.
Sharot, T., Guitart-Masip, M., Korn, C. W., Chowdhury, R., & Dolan, R. J. (2012a), ‘How dopamine enhances an optimism bias in humans’, Current Biology, 22(16): 14771481.
Sharot, T., Kanai, R., Marston, D., Korn, C. W., Rees, G., and Dolan, R. J. (2012b), ‘Selectively altering belief formation in the human brain’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(42): 1705817062.
Sharot, T., Korn, C. W., and Dolan, R. J. (2011), ‘How unrealistic optimism is maintained in the face of reality’, Nature Neuroscience, 14(11): 14751479.
Shepperd, J. A., Waters, E. A., Weinstein, N. D., and Klein, W. M. P. (2015), ‘A Primer on Unrealistic Optimism’, Current Directions in Psychological Science, 24(3): 232237.
Smith, M. K., Trivers, R., and von Hippel, W. (2017), ‘Self-deception facilitates interpersonal persuasion’. Journal of Economic Psychology, 63: 93101.
Sunstein, C. R. (2005a), Laws of fear: Beyond the precautionary principle (Vol. 6). Cambridge University Press. Retrieved from https://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=-OVUQPirb6cC&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=Laws+of+Fear:+Beyond+the+Precautionary+Principle&ots=7F3BKUco9h&sig=L4RE6izNxStxQUjKCXh8fetK2JE
Sunstein, C. R. (2005b), ‘Misfearing: A reply’, Harvard Law Review, 119: 1110.
Sunstein, C. R., Bobadilla-Suarez, S., Lazzaro, S. C., and Sharot, T. (2016), How People Update Beliefs about Climate Change: Good News and Bad News (SSRN Scholarly Paper No. ID 2821919). Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network. Retrieved from https://papers.ssrn.com/abstract=2821919.
Suter, R. S., and Hertwig, R. (2011), ‘Time and moral judgment’, Cognition, 119(3): 454458.
Taber, C. S., and Lodge, M. (2006), ‘Motivated Skepticism in the Evaluation of Political Beliefs’, American Journal of Political Science, 50(3): 755769.
Taber, C. S., and Lodge, M. (2016), ‘The illusion of choice in democratic politics: the unconscious impact of motivated political reasoning’, Political Psychology, 37(S1): 6185.
Tappin, B. M., van der Leer, L., and McKay, R. T. (2017), ‘The Heart Trumps the Head: Desirability Bias in Political Belief Revision’, Retrieved from http://psycnet.apa.org/psycarticles/2017-23363-001
Taylor, S. E., and Brown, J. D. (1988), ‘Illusion and well-being: A social psychological perspective on mental health’, Psychological Bulletin, 103(2): 193210.
Taylor, S. E., Kemeny, M. E., Reed, G. M., Bower, J. E., and Gruenewald, T. L. (2000), ‘Psychological resources, positive illusions, and health’, American Psychologist, 55(1): 99.
Weber, E. U. (2006), ‘Experience-Based and Description-Based Perceptions of Long-Term Risk: Why Global Warming does not Scare us (Yet)’, Climatic Change, 77(1–2): 103120.
Weinstein, N. D. (1980), ‘Unrealistic optimism about future life events’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 39(5): 806820.
Weinstein, N. D., and Klein, W. M. (1995), ‘Resistance of personal risk perceptions to debiasing interventions’, Health Psychology, 14(2): 132140.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Behavioural Public Policy
  • ISSN: 2398-063X
  • EISSN: 2398-0648
  • URL: /core/journals/behavioural-public-policy
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed