Closed-Minded Cognition: Right-Wing Authoritarianism is Negatively Related to Belief Updating Following Prediction Error
When confronted with information that challenges our beliefs, we must often learn from error in order to successfully navigate the world. Past studies in reinforcement learning and educational psychology have linked prediction error, a measure of surprise, to successful learning from feedback. However, there are substantial individual differences in belief-updating success, and the psychological factors that influence belief updating remain unclear. Here, we identify a novel factor that may predict belief updating: Right-Wing Authoritarianism (RWA), which is characterized by a desire for order, structure, and preservation of social norms. We hypothesized that, because people who score high on RWA are motivated to preserve entrenched beliefs, they may often fail to successfully update their beliefs when confronted with new information. Using a novel paradigm, we challenged participants’ false beliefs and misconceptions to elicit prediction error. In two studies, we found consistent evidence that high-RWA individuals were less successful at correcting their false beliefs. Relative to low-RWA individuals, high-RWA individuals were less likely to revise beliefs in response to prediction error. We argue that RWA is associated with a relatively closed-minded cognitive style that negatively influences belief updating.
Sinclair, AH; Stanley, M; Seli, P
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