Liberals are slightly more likely than conservatives to give up real money in order to avoid reading political opinions with which they disagree, according to a new study by scientists from the University of Illinois.
The study asked 2,417 participants to read either an article that concurred with their own view or one that contradicted it. If they read the article with which they disagreed, they would be entered in a drawing to win $10. If they selected an article they agreed with, they’d only be able to win $7.
Roughly 63 percent of liberals and 58 percent of conservatives read the article they already agreed with, even though it meant they would earn less money. This was a much smaller difference between political parties than researchers thought they’d detect.
“Ideologically committed people are similarly motivated to avoid ideologically crosscutting information,” the study’s abstract said. “Although some previous research has found that political conservatives may be more prone to selective exposure than liberals are, we find similar selective exposure motives on the political left and right across a variety of issues. The majority of people on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate willingly gave up a chance to win money to avoid hearing from the other side.”
The aversion to reading dissenting opinions applied almost equally across a broad spectrum of issues including gay marriage, the 2016 election, marijuana, global warming, gun control and abortion.
Participants determined that the emotional comfort they’d lose via exposure to contrary information was worth more to them than the money. One of the study’s authors, Matt Motyl, described this phenomenon as “motivated ignorance.”
“They don’t know what’s going on the other side, and they don’t want to know,” Dr. Jeremy Frimer, the University of Winnipeg psychologist involved in the research, told Vox.
Researchers concluded that the lack of interest participants had in hearing the other side’s point of view was not because they already understood the opposition’s argument. Instead, participants thought hearing the other side’s point of view would create cognitive dissonance and frustration.
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