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Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Moralization of rationality can stimulate, but intellectual humility inhibits, sharing of hostile conspiratorial rumors.

Marie, A., & Petersen, M. (2022, March 4). 


Many assume that if citizens become more inclined to moralize the values of evidence-based and logical thinking, political hostility and conspiracy theories would be less widespread.  Across two large surveys (N = 3675) run in the U.S.A. of 2021 (one exploratory and one preregistered), we provide the first demonstration that moralization of rationality can actually stimulate the spread of conspiratorial and hostile news. This reflects the fact that the moralization of rationality can be highly interrelated with status seeking, corroborating arguments that self-enhancing strategies often advance hidden behind claims to objectivity and morality. In contrast to moral grandstanding on the issue of rationality, our studies find robust evidence that intellectual humility may immunize people from sharing and believing hostile  conspiratorial news (i.e. the awareness that intuitions are fallible, and that suspending critique is often desirable). All associations generalized to hostile conspiratorial news both “fake” and anchored in real events.

General Discussion

Many observers assume that citizens more morally sensitized to the values of evidence-based and methodic thinking would be better protected from the perils of political polarization, conspiracy theories, and “fake news.”Yet, attention to the discourse of individuals who pass along politically hostile and conspiratorial claims suggests that they often sincerely believe to be free and independent “critical thinkers”, and to care more about“facts” than the “unthinking sheep” to which they assimilate most of the population (Harambam & Aupers, 2017).

Across two  large online  surveys (N  = 3675) conducted in  the  context  of the  highly polarized  U.S.A. of  2021, we provide the first piece of evidence that moralizing  epistemic rationality—a motivation   for   rationality defined in the abstract—may stimulate the dissemination of hostile conspiratorial views. Specifically, respondents who reported viewing the grounding of one’s beliefs in evidence and logic as amoral virtue(StÃ¥hl et al., 2016) were more  likely to share hostile conspiratorial news to their political  opponents on social  media than individuals low on  this trait.  Importantly, the effect generalized to two types of news stories overtly targeting the  participant’s outgroup: (false) news making entirely fabricated.