College of LAS « Illinois

Psychology

Those Unsure of Own Ideas More Resistant to Views of Others

Dolores Albarracin

We swim in a sea of information, but filter out most of what we see or hear. A new analysis of data from dozens of studies sheds new light on how we choose what we do and do not hear. The study found that while people tend to avoid information that contradicts what they already think or believe, certain factors can cause them to seek out, or at least consider, other views.

The analysis, reported this month in Psychological Bulletin, published by the American Psychological Association, was led by researchers at the University of Illinois and the University of Florida, and included data from 91 studies involving nearly 8,000 participants. It puts to rest a longstanding debate over whether people actively avoid information that contradicts what they believe, or whether they are simply exposed more often to ideas that conform to their own because they tend to be surrounded by like-minded people.

“We wanted to see exactly across the board to what extent people are willing to seek out the truth versus just stay comfortable with what they know,” says University of Illinois psychology professor Dolores Albarracin, who led the study with University of Florida researcher William Hart. The team also included researchers from Northwestern University and Ohio University.

Fall 2009