Arnold Kling  

Group Affiliation Bias

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Regulation Matters More than T... Eugenics, Malthusianism, and T...

Or something like that. Justin Fox writes,


We all like to think we can evaluate information and arguments rationally, regardless of where they come from. But we don't. As Yale Law School's Dan Kahan, who has studied this stuff a lot, puts it:

People feel that it is safe to consider evidence with an open mind when they know that a knowledgeable member of their cultural community accepts it.

When the information seems to be coming from or favoring the other side, all bets are off.

Read the whole thing. Pointer from the indispensable Mark Thoma. I think this ties in well with my essay on Haidt and moral reasoning.


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COMMENTS (6 to date)
Luke G. writes:

I must confess that I am very susceptible to this. I had always dismissed arguments for open borders and pacifism till I heard them from the likes of Bryan Caplan and David Henderson; I wouldn't listen to the arguments from the "liberal-left" but could accept them from libertarian-leaning writers.

Jody writes:

I don't believe you or your strange experiment Outlander.

Mike Rulle writes:

Assuming difference of opinion causes one's superiors to think less of you, and your colleagues to think less of you, this will be true in any group setting. I am more inclined to think of group affiliation bias to be "power driven" forced agreement. Both economics and status is set by the tone of the group leader or leaders. While common views can bring people together, power is a stronger variable.

That is my experience at any rate.

Becky Hargrove writes:

I loved this exchange between Justin and a commenter:
"...favorite childhood story - A friend was over for lunch and my mother asked her how she was enjoying her (half-finished) cutlet. My friend replied, 'That depends. Is it chicken or fish, because I don't like fish.'"

To which Justin replied, "I hope your mother responded that it was monkey brains."

Steve Skutnik writes:

This really just represents the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. The identity of the speaker, i.e., "affiliated" or "adversary" matters quite a bit - enough where it can actually open up minds to consider new evidence.

But fundamentally it's coming back to values - why are people more receptive to new evidence from someone from "within" their affiliation than from "without?" Because information coming from "within" is perceived as potentially less likely to challenge deeply-held values - again, this is coming from a person who shares their values.

Kahan has some incredibly interesting work looking at perceptions of climate change evidence, specifically in terms of its framing context. The "individualist" and "hierarchical" orientations have been shown to be far more receptive to consider evidence of climate change if it's presented in the context of expanding the use of nuclear power as opposed to increasing regulation.

In other words, when information is presented in a way which does not directly challenge the listener's pre-conceived values, they are demonstrably more willing to consider evidence that contradicts their beliefs. It thus seems to me that the key issue here is finding ways to speak to the values of the audience, rather than trying to change those values directly.

This is in my mind, despite the many salient criticisms, one of the real points of value in projects like "Bleeding Heart Libertarians." The project is pretty much trying to speak to the values of a more egalitarian-oriented audience - in other words, actually trying to make the case for libertarianism to those who do not necessarily hold to the exact same values as those who tend to come to those positions on their own.

Foobarista writes:

At the end of the day, the question is basically do you value your friends/family/tribe/etc or abstract ideas? Very few people will consistently take the second choice in all topics and in all situations.

I suspect even the august professors on this list have from time to time declined to argue a point with their spouses in order to keep domestic peace, even if the spouse was "wrong". And how often do you effectively choose a side in something you don't particularly care about or have little influence over because the party conversation is more smooth if you agree with everyone else?

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