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The effects of expertise, agreement, and situational context on perceptions of bias in authorities

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Item Summary

Title: The effects of expertise, agreement, and situational context on perceptions of bias in authorities
Authors: Salmon, Michael Patrick
Keywords: authorities
Issue Date: Aug 2011
Publisher: [Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [August 2011]
Abstract: The current study explored how individuals perceive bias in various authorities making arguments for one side of a controversial topic (in this case, anthropogenic global warming [AGW]). Recent theorizing on the nature of belief suggests that unavoidable time and energy constraints demand that individuals resolve their predicaments economically by relying upon authorities to provide useful information on topics of interest (Hardin, 2009). Emotional indicators of belief may to facilitate the decision-making process by highlighting the plausibility of information in light of past experiences (Leicester, 2008).
The present study explored perceptions of bias in authorities based upon three factors: a.) credentials of the presenting authority, b.) a prime casting climate change as either a scientific or moral issue, and c.) agreement of the authority's argument with participants' prior climate change beliefs.
Analysis revealed a significant interaction between argument agreement and authority, suggesting that individuals selectively consider an authority's credentials when perceiving bias, depending on the authority's agreement with one's prior beliefs. Participants were unable to recall many, if any, resources by which they had learned about AGW. As well, higher levels of belief certainty and moral engagement in AGW were associated with more lenient treatment of agreeing authorities and harsher treatment of disagreeing authorities. These findings suggest that individuals may dismiss inconvenient scientific opinions when a more agreeable argument is presented, even when such an argument is presented by one with few valid credentials.
Description: M.A. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2011.
Includes bibliographical references.
Appears in Collections:M.A. - Psychology

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