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Fierce beliefs: built on ignorance

Do you have a strong opinion about Obamacare? Great. Now, please explain how it works. If that question gives you pause, it might also serve a purpose: A new study suggests that the intense political polarization affecting this country depends on ignorance, and that drawing our attention to how little we know could actually help us get along. Researchers asked people to indicate their position on one of several policies (e.g., cap and trade, flat tax) and then asked them to explain the mechanics of how the policy worked or didn’t work. After attempting this explanation, people reported less understanding of the issue and took a more moderate position. Asking people to come up with reasons for their position rather than a mechanistic explanation didn’t have the same moderating effect.

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