Saturday, March 2, 2019

Political partisans disagreed about the importance of conditional probabilities; highly numerate partisans were more polarized than less numerate partisans

It depends: Partisan evaluation of conditional probability importance. Leaf Van Boven et al. Cognition, Mar 2 2019,

•    Political partisans disagreed about the importance of conditional probabilities.
•    Supporters of restricting immigration and banning assault weapons favored uninformative “hit rates”.
•    Policy opponents favored normatively informative base rates and inverse conditionals.
•    Highly numerate partisans were more polarized than less numerate partisans.
•    Adopting an expert’s perspective reduced partisan differences.

Abstract: Policies to suppress rare events such as terrorism often restrict co-occurring categories such as Muslim immigration. Evaluating restrictive policies requires clear thinking about conditional probabilities. For example, terrorism is extremely rare. So even if most terrorist immigrants are Muslim—a high “hit rate”—the inverse conditional probability of Muslim immigrants being terrorists is extremely low. Yet the inverse conditional probability is more relevant to evaluating restrictive policies such as the threat of terrorism if Muslim immigration were restricted. We suggest that people engage in partisan evaluation of conditional probabilities, judging hit rates as more important when they support politically prescribed restrictive policies. In two studies, supporters of expelling asylum seekers from Tel Aviv, Israel, of banning Muslim immigration and travel to the United States, and of banning assault weapons judged “hit rate” probabilities (e.g., that terrorists are Muslims) as more important than did policy opponents, who judged the inverse conditional probabilities (e.g., that Muslims are terrorists) as more important. These partisan differences spanned restrictive policies favored by Rightists and Republicans (expelling asylum seekers and banning Muslim travel) and by Democrats (banning assault weapons). Inviting partisans to adopt an unbiased expert’s perspective partially reduced these partisan differences. In Study 2 (but not Study 1), partisan differences were larger among more numerate partisans, suggesting that numeracy supported motivated reasoning. These findings have implications for polarization, political judgment, and policy evaluation. Even when partisans agree about what the statistical facts are, they markedly disagree about the relevance of those statistical facts.

Check also: Biased Policy Professionals. Sheheryar Banuri, Stefan Dercon, and Varun Gauri. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 8113.

And: Dispelling the Myth: Training in Education or Neuroscience Decreases but Does Not Eliminate Beliefs in Neuromyths. Kelly Macdonald et al. Frontiers in Psychology, Aug 10 2017.

And: Wisdom and how to cultivate it: Review of emerging evidence for a constructivist model of wise thinking. Igor Grossmann. European Psychologist, in press. Pre-print:

And: Individuals with greater science literacy and education have more polarized beliefs on controversial science topics. Caitlin Drummond and Baruch Fischhoff. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 114 no. 36, pp 9587–9592,

And: Expert ability can actually impair the accuracy of expert perception when judging others' performance: Adaptation and fallibility in experts' judgments of novice performers. By Larson, J. S., & Billeter, D. M. (2017). Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 43(2), 271–288.

No comments:

Post a Comment