July 2, 2009

People select views in which they agree

An analysis of dozens of studies found people tend to avoid information that contradicts what they already think or believe, U.S. researchers said.

Researchers at the University of Illinois and the University of Florida said the data studied involved 91 studies involving nearly 8,000 participants.

University of Illinois psychology Professor Dolores Albarracin, who led the study with University of Florida researcher William Hart and colleagues, said the analysis 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, Albarracin said in a statement.

The analysis, published in the Psychological Bulletin, found that people are about twice as likely to select information that supports their own point of view -- 67 percent -- as to consider an opposing idea -- 33 percent.

For the most part it seems that people tend to stay with their own beliefs and attitudes because changing those might prevent them from living the lives they're living, Albarracín said. But it's good news that one out of three times, or close to that, they are willing to seek out the other side.