The dark side of self-affirmation: Confirmation bias and illusory correlation in response to threatening information

  • Munro G
  • Stansbury J
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Abstract

The effect of self-affirmation on reasoning biases was explored. After participants wrote about a value that was important to them (self-affirmation) or a value that was not important to them (no affirmation), they tested a hypothesis using a task commonly used to study the confirmation bias (Study 1) and assessed correlation from data presented in a 2 × 2 frequency table (Study 2). In both tasks, participants assessed the validity of a hypothesis that had either threatening or non threatening implications for their self-concepts. Non affirmed participants who tested threatening hypotheses exhibited the confirmation bias less frequently (Study 1) and assessed correlation more accurately (Study 2) than self-affirmed participants or participants who tested non threatening hypotheses. Results support models of motivated reasoning that propose that information processing is altered in response to threatening information. By ameliorating the threat, self-affirmations can elicit less effective reasoning strategies. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved). (journal abstract)

Author-supplied keywords

  • Confirmation bias
  • Illusory correlation
  • Motivated reasoning
  • Self-affirmation

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Authors

  • Geoffrey D. Munro

  • Jessica A. Stansbury

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