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Poster E155

A dual process framework of motivated reasoning: Neural and behavioral evidence for the influence of belief endorsement

Poster Session E - Monday, April 15, 2024, 2:30 – 4:30 pm EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Brianna Aubrey1, Katherine L. Alfred1,2, Jason Liu1, David J. M. Kraemer1; 1Dartmouth College, 2University of California, Berkeley

Motivated reasoning causes individuals to prefer conclusions that align with their prior beliefs, rather than conclusions best supported by the available evidence. This process leads people to believe misleading statements about topics like vaccine safety, climate change, or election fraud while discrediting factual information. Comparing patterns of brain activity during different conditions of a logical reasoning task (verbal syllogisms) can help characterize the cognitive and neural processes that lead to motivated reasoning. Correctly evaluating a syllogism requires participants to distinguish between their prior beliefs about a statement and its internal validity in the context of the syllogism. Our findings indicate that motivated reasoning differs on the basis of belief endorsement. When an endorsed belief is challenged, participants display decreased accuracy compared to trials in which evidence supports a statement they do not endorse (and compared to trials in which evidence aligns with their prior beliefs). One explanation for this decrease in performance is that participants ignore conflicting evidence and select the response that aligns with their prior belief without reasoning. However, our results show that participants perceive more conflict and exert more cognitive effort to arrive at a response during these trials, despite reaching the correct conclusion less than fifty percent of the time. This effect is demonstrated by longer response times and differential neural activity in a network of regions that processes response conflict. These distinct response patterns reveal two separate processes of motivated reasoning differentiated by the interaction of belief endorsement and agreement with available evidence.

Topic Area: THINKING: Reasoning


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April 13–16  |  2024