A collaborative team of researchers from University of Illinois and University of Florida have uncovered certain truths regarding how people respond to opposing views. While some tend to avoid information that contradicts what they already think or believe, certain factors can cause them to seek out, or at least consider, other points of view.
During the study, the researchers analysed the data of nearly 8000 people, who were asked about their views on a given topic, and then allowed them to choose whether they wanted to view or read information supporting their own or an opposing point of view.
"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," said University of Illinois Psychology professor Dolores Albarracín.
The study showed that 67 pct of the people were twice as likely to select information that supports their own point of view as to consider an opposing idea (33 percent).
Certain individuals, those with close-minded personalities, are even more reluctant to expose themselves to differing perspectives, Albarracín said.
They will opt for the information that corresponds to their views nearly 75 percent of the time.
Moreover, people are more resistant to new points of view when their own ideas are associated with political, religious or ethical values.
"If you are really committed to your own attitude - for example, if you are a very committed Democrat - you are more likely to seek congenial information, that is, information that corresponds with your views," Albarracín said.
"If the issues concern moral values or politics, about 70 percent of the time you will choose congenial information, versus about 60 percent of the time if the issues are not related to values," Albarracín added.
However, people are also more likely to expose themselves to opposing ideas when it is useful to them in some way.
Those who may have to publicly defend their ideas, such as politicians are more motivated to learn about the views of those who oppose them. In the process they sometimes find that their own ideas evolve.
"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," added.
The findings appear in the journal Psychological Bulletin.