Confronting Core Issues: A Critical Test of Attitude Polarization

22 March 2023, Version 2
This content is an early or alternative research output and has not been peer-reviewed at the time of posting.


A long-standing debate in political psychology considers whether individuals update their beliefs and attitudes in the direction of evidence or grow more confident in their convictions when confronted with counter-attitudinal arguments. Though recent studies have shown that instances of the latter tendency, which scholars have termed attitude polarization and belief backfire, are rarely observed in settings involving hot-button issues or viral misinformation, we know surprisingly little about how participants respond to information targeting deeply held attitudes, a key condition for triggering attitude polarization. We develop a tailored experimental design that measures participants' positions regarding their most important issues and randomly assigns them to different mixtures of personalized pro-attitudinal and counter-attitudinal information using the large language model GPT-3. We fail to recover evidence consistent with attitude polarization across three studies. We conclude by discussing implications for the study of political cognition and the measurement of attitudes.


motivated reasoning
attitude polarization
large language models


Comments are not moderated before they are posted, but they can be removed by the site moderators if they are found to be in contravention of our Commenting Policy [opens in a new tab] - please read this policy before you post. Comments should be used for scholarly discussion of the content in question. You can find more information about how to use the commenting feature here [opens in a new tab] .
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy [opens in a new tab] and Terms of Service [opens in a new tab] apply.