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Weekend update: "Note on Perverse Effect of Actively Open-minded Thinking" now "in press" in Resarch & Politics

This paper is now officially "forthcoming" in Research & Politics . . . 

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Reader Comments (4)

A question - are the questions on the AOT scale entangled with people's identity, perceived as showing the sort of person they are? Would you want to be known as the sort of person who ignores or refuses to change their mind in the face of contrary evidence? Even if you are one?

I would suggest that simply relying on self-reported assessments, you use one of your skin-cream/gun-control set-ups to measure the *actual* open-mindedness to evidence contrary to expectations. The gap between how a person answers the skin-cream question with no prior expectations and the gun-control question that goes against their prior beliefs is an independent measure of open-minded thinking - how well does it correlate with the AOT survey scale, for left and right?

I have often got the impression that "open-mindedness" is a part of the Democrat 'identity' in the US - it's part of the same body of thought that came up with the "Republican Brain", believing that Democrats are generally more intelligent, better educated, more open-minded and open to new experiences than Republicans, which is why Republicans can hold beliefs that are so wrong and why Democrats are so right about everything. It's part of their self-image, and emotionally important to them that it be true.

My suspicion is that those who believe and self-report themselves the most open-minded are probably not the most open-minded in practice. But I'm not confident of that - it also might well be messy, with a mix of disparate groups going in different directions.

And from your point of view, a validation of the AOT scale against your skin-cream experiment would enhance the value of both, if I should turn out to be wrong.


Incidentally, why do you think the Democrats with the lowest (strongly negative) AOT scores are virtually identical in their beliefs about global warming to the Republicans? I'm struggling to come up with a plausible psychology to fit that. I'd have expected on a scale like AOT, that people would vary between neutral and positive, and I find it surprising that people would score any of those factors strongly negatively, unless they were being perverse. I've got a suspicion that some people might choose to try to mess up the politically-motivated conclusions they see such surveys being used to support in the media. (Identity entanglement again.) If you was a subject in such a trial and desperately wanted science to prove that it was lack of open-mindedness that caused global warming disbelief, that it wasn't due simply to people's politics, and was willing to shade the truth to achieve that, how would you respond to such a survey? I don't think it's all that likely, or affects your conclusions much, but it's something to think about.

September 24, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNiV


1. I think Baron understands the self-report AOT measure to be valid precisely b/c it measures commitment to an ideal; from the commitment flows the reality. But the only sort of validity-- & likely he'd agree-- that counts is external-- that is, does it predict the sort behavior that it is supposed to be measuring. We cite papers that suggest it does. But I'm not sure how it would do head-to-head against CRT, say.

2. I'd say that those who are lowest in cognitive proficiency ought to tend toward noise in identity-expressive beliefs. Noise would be closer to 0.50 than 0.25 on belief in human-caused climate change, though. I think the raw data is more reliable in that regard than the modeled data, which is giving a lot of weight, as it were, to the slope of the sigmoid in the densest part of the distribution & projecting out to tail in way that I think exaggerates skeptism of liberals at low AOT. .. The more striking thng is how uniform the sklepticism of conservs is at all levels of AOT. Perhaps is "easier" to know what one's position is supposed to be if one is a conservative?... Or alternatively AOT just lacks the resolution necessary to pick up the contribution that critical reasoning differences are making to variation in more conservative subjects. AS we report, it has relatively low scale reliability (alpha = 0.61); compare what one sees with a highly reliabile measure like OSI.

September 24, 2016 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

"The more striking thng is how uniform the sklepticism of conservs is at all levels of AOT. Perhaps is "easier" to know what one's position is supposed to be if one is a conservative?"

Possible I suppose, but I'm inclined to doubt it.

I think AOT may be being applied in different ways by those segments of the left and right who value it.

You can interpret it as support for science in general (as it's a core principle of the scientific philosophy) which is transformed into trust and faith in the conclusions scientists have drawn. Scientists practice open-mindedness so you don't have to. And having practiced it, and rejected hypotheses X, Y , and Z, that means you can safely reject them too, without having to think about it.

I see that sort of attitude quite commonly among what you might call 'cultural skeptics', the followers of Dawkins and Randi, Shermer, and so on - people who identify with the popular cultural movement of 'skeptics', aligning their beliefs with that community. They reject what they endearingly call 'woo', meaning pseudoscientific claims on the paranormal, ESP, astrology, homeopathy, crystal healing, aromatherapy, scientology, creationism, spoon bending, dowsing, and so on. They don't believe because they've done the experiments themselves - they believe it because all the people in their community, people with with the right credentials, told them it was so. It allows them to feel intellectually superior to the superstitiously ignorant masses.

The other way to interpret it is what you might call the 'Feynman' version: Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts. Demand to see the evidence. Look for arguments going against the conventional, look for the rebels and revolutionaries. When your own views are seen as unconventional or unpopular, it's a good emotional justification for sticking to that line. I've met quite a few creationists who espouse that 'actively open-minded' identity - they insist you should use it to stay open-minded about things like evolution, seeking out the counter-arguments, and then when they're not competent to evaluate the truth of them themselves, defaulting to a sort of (selectively-applied) vague agnosticism about it all. Especially stuff they didn't agree with to start with.

For the conservatives on climate change, rejection of AOT allows rejection of the scientific consensus using the first interpretation. (Possibly people who reject AOT are not rejecting core scientific principles so much as objecting to the arrogance of followers of the first interpretation?) But acceptance of AOT can be applied in the second sense to follow the scientific mavericks in the name of open-mindedness. Either way, the answer comes out the same.

For the liberals who either accept or reject AOT, they can all interpret it in the first sense and thereby follow/reject the consensus. I can certainly believe those who accept AOT do so - I see a lot of people like that. People who pride themselves on their scientific scepticism, but who couldn't even correctly explain how the greenhouse effect worked, let alone some of the more complex evidence around climate change. Whether the liberals at the other end rejecting climate science and AOT alike are as plausible I can't say. I don't meet many people like that.

I don't know, though.

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNiV


The AOT battery is rather interesting

Table 10.
AOT scale used in Study 4: “Questions about thinking” (α = .67). Response scale: Strongly agree … Strongly disagree (5 points.)
Allowing oneself to be convinced by an opposing argument is a sign of good character.
People should take into consideration evidence that goes against their beliefs.
People should revise their beliefs in response to new information or evidence.
Changing your mind is a sign of weakness. (–)
Intuition is the best guide in making decisions. (–)
It is important to persevere in your beliefs even when evidence is brought to bear against them. (–)
One should disregard evidence that conflicts with one's established beliefs. (–)
People should search actively for reasons why their beliefs might be wrong.

Now, before we discuss climate change there are few questions I want to ask you about changing your mind.

In different contexts I'd answer these questions differently.

heck I would give one set of answers to a researcher and another set of answers on a first date.

December 2, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSteven Mosher

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