Motivated Reasoning: facts do care about your feelings, Jeffery Chen, UG '25 (3939095)
With America divided as ever, people from state governments to households have asked themselves: "Why can’t we change their minds?" In FRS 193: Belief and Ideology, I researched why traditional persuasion strategies (i.e providing evidence or pointing out inconsistencies) seem to fall on deaf ears. After going through psychology papers written about the limits of persuasion, I found that a major roadblock to successful persuasion is due to motivated reasoning—a cognitive phenomenon in which an individual's beliefs bias how they approach dissenting viewpoints. For example, when an individual is presented with evidence that challenges a belief they hold, they tend to be far more critical than if they were presented with evidence that affirms their beliefs. It is much easier to reinforce held beliefs than it is to challenge them. Motivated reasoning can explain much of the polarization in society, and understanding this phenomenon could be the first step in altering how we (as individuals and a collective society) approach issues.