“Motivated ignorance” is ruining our political discourse Reply

Listening to a political opponent is almost as bad as getting a tooth pulled

Frimer and his colleagues demonstrated this same effect with several different methodologies in their paper. In another test, they (essentially) asked participants to rate how interested they were in learning about alternative political viewpoints compared to activities like: “watching paint dry,” “sitting quietly,” “going for a walk on a sunny day,” and “having a tooth pulled.”

By Brian Resnick

Vox

Ikon Images / Getty Images

If you ever thought, “You couldn’t pay me to listen to Sean Hannity / Rachael Maddow / insert any television pundit you violently disagree with here” — you are not alone.

A study, recently published in the Journal of Experimental and Social Psychology, essentially tested this very question.

Two hundred participants were presented with two options. They could either read and answer questions about an opinion they agreed with — the topic was same-sex marriage — or read the opposing viewpoint.

Here’s the catch: If the participants chose to read the opinion they agreed with, they were entered into a raffle pool to earn $7. If they selected to read opposing opinion, they had a chance to win $10.

You’d think everyone would want to win more money, right?

No.

A majority — 63 percent — of the participants chose to stick with what they already knew, forgoing the chance to win $10. Both people with pro same-sex marriage beliefs and those against it avoided the opinion hostile to their worldview at similar rates.

“They don’t know what’s going on the other side, and they don’t want to know,” Jeremy Frimer, the University of Winnipeg psychologist who led the study, says.

This is a key point that many people miss when discussing the “fake news” or “filter bubble” problem in our online media ecosystems. Avoiding facts inconvenient to our worldview isn’t just some passive, unconscious habit we engage in. We do it because we find these facts to be genuinely unpleasant. And as long as this experience remains unpleasant, and easy to avoid, we’re just going to drift further and further apart.

Listening to a political opponent is almost as bad as getting a tooth pulled

Frimer and his colleagues demonstrated this same effect with several different methodologies in their paper. In another test, they (essentially) asked participants to rate how interested they were in learning about alternative political viewpoints compared to activities like: “watching paint dry,” “sitting quietly,” “going for a walk on a sunny day,” and “having a tooth pulled.”

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