We examined subjects' ability to judge the validity of contentious one-sentence arguments as a function of whether they believe the argument. Subjects read sentences such as Spanking is an effective means of discipline because methodologically sound studies have shown that spanking reduces aggression. All subjects completed a prescreening to assess whether they believe the claim made in the argument. In Experiment 1, subjects made judgments of whether there was a valid relationship between the reason given and the claim. Results indicated that subjects were biased in favor of accepting arguments that they believe, regardless of whether they are valid or not. Accuracy at identifying the validity of arguments did not vary as a function of subject beliefs in the arguments. In Experiment 2, recall of arguments did not differ as a function of beliefs, suggesting that the belief biases displayed in Experiment 1 do not result in differential memory for the arguments.
Conference of the Psychonomic Society
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