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.
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This content is an early or alternative research output and has not been peer-reviewed at the time of posting.