In Kahan’s study, the discrepant information given to participants was about climate change and scores on the CRT. Some participants were told that research showed people who “accept evidence of climate change” tended to get more answers correct on the CRT (discrepant for conservatives). Others were told that people who “reject evidence of climate change” got more answers correct (discrepant for liberals). After receiving this information, participants were asked to rate their agreement with the view that the CRT “supplies good evidence of how reflective and open-minded someone is” (Kahan 2013, 412). Kahan found that both liberals and conservatives were biased in their evaluation of the CRT.When told it correlated with an opposing point of view—climate change deniers for liberals and climate change accepters for conservatives—each downgraded their rating of the validity of the CRT. Kahan’s (2013) study was one of fifty-one similar experiments summarized in the meta-analysis by Ditto and colleagues. Writing in the March 2019 issue of Perspectives on Psychological Science, Ditto et al. (2019a) suggest that Kahan’s findings are representative of similar studies that looked at the biases of liberals and conservatives. When confronted with information that challenges their beliefs, both sides show equivalent levels of bias.
Well, that should be a comforting thought. If we can’t get rid of bias, perhaps it is best that it be evenly distributed across both ends of the political spectrum. Not so fast.