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Neural Bases of Motivated Reasoning: An fMRI Study of Emotional Constraints on Partisan Political Judgment in the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election

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Research on political judgment and decision-making has converged with decades of research in clinical and social psychology suggesting the ubiquity of emotion-biased motivated reasoning. Motivated reasoning is a form of implicit emotion regulation in which the brain converges on judgments that minimize negative and maximize positive affect states associated with threat to or attainment of motives. To what extent motivated reasoning engages neural circuits involved in "cold" reasoning and conscious emotion regulation (e.g., suppression) is, however, unknown. We used functional neuroimaging to study the neural responses of 30 committed partisans during the U.S. Presidential election of 2004. We presented subjects with reasoning tasks involving judgments about information threatening to their own candidate, the opposing candidate, or neutral control targets. Motivated reasoning was associated with activations of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, posterior cingulate cortex, insular cortex, and lateral orbital cortex. As predicted, motivated reasoning was not associated with neural activity in regions previously linked to cold reasoning tasks and conscious (explicit) emotion regulation. The findings provide the first neuroimaging evidence for phenomena variously described as motivated reasoning, implicit emotion regulation, and psychological defense. They suggest that motivated reasoning is qualitatively distinct from reasoning when people do not have a strong emotional stake in the conclusions reached.
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Neural Bases of Motivated Reasoning: An fMRI Study
of Emotional Constraints on Partisan Political
Judgment in the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election
Drew Westen, Pavel S. Blagov, Keith Harenski, Clint Kilts,
and Stephan Hamann
Abstract
&Research on political judgment and decision-making has
converged with decades of research in clinical and social psy-
chology suggesting the ubiquity of emotion-biased motivated
reasoning. Motivated reasoning is a form of implicit emotion
regulation in which the brain converges on judgments that
minimize negative and maximize positive affect states associ-
ated with threat to or attainment of motives. To what extent
motivated reasoning engages neural circuits involved in ‘‘cold ’’
reasoning and conscious emotion regulation (e.g., suppres-
sion) is, however, unknown. We used functional neuroimag-
ing to study the neural responses of 30 committed partisans
during the U.S. Presidential election of 2004. We presented
subjects with reasoning tasks involving judgments about in-
formation threatening to their own candidate, the opposing
candidate, or neutral control targets. Motivated reasoning was
associated with activations of the ventromedial prefrontal cor-
tex, anterior cingulate cortex, posterior cingulate cortex, in-
sular cortex, and lateral orbital cortex. As predicted, motivated
reasoning was not associated with neural activity in regions
previously linked to cold reasoning tasks and conscious
(explicit) emotion regulation. The findings provide the first
neuroimaging evidence for phenomena variously described
as motivated reasoning, implicit emotion regulation, and psy-
chological defense. They suggest that motivated reasoning is
qualitatively distinct from reasoning when people do not have
a strong emotional stake in the conclusions reached. &
INTRODUCTION
In political science, cognitive science, economics, law,
and business, the predominant models of judgment and
decision-making today are ‘‘bounded rationality’’ models
(Simon, 1990). These models suggest that people are
rational within limits imposed by cognitive shortcuts and
heuristics (Westen, Weinberger, & Bradley, in press;
Gigerenzer & Selten, 2001; Kahneman & Tversky, 2000).
In political science, a long-standing body of research
on ‘‘partisan’’ biases in political judgment (e.g., Taber,
Lodge, & Glathar, 2001; Campbell & Converse, 1960)
points to another set of limits to rational judgment im-
posed by emotion-biased or motivated reasoning (i.e.,
reasoning biased to produce emotionally preferable con-
clusions; Kunda, 1990; Lord, Ross, & Lepper, 1979).
Motivated reasoning can be viewed as a form of implicit
affect regulation in which the brain converges on solu-
tions that minimize negative and maximize positive
affect states (Westen & Blagov, in press; Westen, 1985,
1994, 1998). Freud (1933) described such processes
decades ago, using the term ‘‘defense ’’ to denote the
processes by which people can adjust their cognitions to
avoid aversive feelings such as anxiety and guilt. We use
the term motivated reasoning here because of its wide-
spread use (although, strictly speaking, all reasoning is
typically motivated by emotions such as interest, excite-
ment, anxiety, etc.; see Marcus, 2002; Westen, 1985).
Neural network models of motivated reasoning sug-
gest that in affectively relevant situations, the brain
equilibrates to solutions that simultaneously satisfy two
sets of constraints: cognitive constraints, which maxi-
mize goodness of fit to the data, and emotional con-
straints, which maximize positive affect and minimize
negative affect (Westen, Feit, Arkowitz, & Blagov, 2005;
Thagard, 2003; Westen, 1998). Decision theorists have
long argued that people gravitate toward decisions that
maximize expected utility (or in emotional terms, that
optimize current or anticipated affect; Simon, Krawczyk,
& Holyoak, 2004; Mellers, 2000; Westen, 1985). Contem-
porary views of motivation similarly emphasize approach
and avoidance systems motivated by positive and nega-
tive affect (Carver, 2001; Davidson, Jackson, & Kalin,
2000). The same processes of approach and avoidance,
motivated by affect or anticipated affect, may apply to
motivated reasoning, such that people will implicitly
approach and avoid judgments based on their emotional
associations.
Emory University
D2006 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 18:11, pp. 1947–1958
A series of studies involving political crises in the
United States spanning the past 8 years (the impeach-
ment of Bill Clinton, the disputed presidential election
of 2000, and the discovery of torture by the United
States at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq) supports this model
(Westen et al., 2005). These studies, along with simu-
lations using a connectionist network designed to ad-
dress ‘‘hot cognition’’ (Thagard, 2003), suggest that
political reasoning can be strongly inf luenced by the
emotional consequences of drawing one conclusion or
the other. Although research has begun to examine ex-
plicit (conscious) processes used to regulate emotion,
notably suppression and distraction (Anderson et al.,
2004; Hariri, Mattay, Tessitore, Fera, & Weinberger, 2003;
Ochsner, Bunge, Gross, & Gabrieli, 2002), no studies
have yet examined the neural processes involved in
motivated reasoning or implicit affect regulation. The
present study is also among the first to explore the
neural basis of any form of political decision-making.
In this study, conducted during the U.S. Presidential
election of 2004, we observed the reasoning processes
of committed partisans as they were presented with
threatening information about their own candidate, the
opposing candidate, and neutral control individuals. We
hypothesized that reasoning about threatening informa-
tion about one’s own candidate would activate regions
likely to be involved in implicit emotion regulation, nota-
bly the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC) and
the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), as well as regions
reflecting elicitation of negative emotion (the insula,
lateral orbital frontal cortex, and amygdala) (see, e.g.,
Ochsner & Gross, 2005).
METHODS
Participants
We recruited subjects (n= 30, 15 Democrats and
15 Republicans) by placing f lyers at local political party
offices, public places, and cars and houses with po-
litical endorsements (e.g., bumper stickers); posting
information on Internet political discussion groups
and local political and party listservs; and placing
newspaper and radio advertisements. Recruitment ma-
terials requested right-handed men, ages 22–55 years,
who were ‘‘committed Republicans or Democrats.’’
We conducted all screening and scanning from late
August through early October 2004. Subjects received
$50 compensation.
Potential subjects were screened by phone using a
magnetic resonance imaging (MRI ) screener (to rule out
safety risks, neurological conditions, etc.) and a political
attitudes questionnaire, using items from the National
Election Studies (NES, www.umich.edu/nes) to mea-
sure partisanship. Using NES item wording, we asked
about nature and strength of party affiliation; obtained
ratings on their feelings toward George W. Bush, John
Kerry, Bill Clinton, Dick Cheney, the Democratic Party,
and the Republican party using a 0–100 ‘‘feeling ther-
mometer’’ (from cold to warm); obtained 4-point rat-
ings of how often Bush and Kerry made them feel angry,
hopeful, afraid, proud, and disgusted; and obtained
4-point ratings of the extent to which they saw the
two candidates as moral, intelligent, dishonest, and out
of touch with ordinary people. To be included sub-
jects had to rate themselves as a strong Democrat or
Republican and to endorse a difference between the
two parties or the two candidates 30 points on the
feeling thermometer.
Measures and Procedures
To simulate the constraint satisfaction processes that
occur as citizens confront political information, we
devised six sets of statements regarding each of the
following targets: George Bush, John Kerry, and polit-
ically neutral male targets (e.g., Tom Hanks, Hank
Aaron, William Styron). (We tried to generate well-
known targets who were emotionally neutral but ulti-
mately selected politically neutral but largely mildly
positive targets because of the difficulty identifying
well-known figures of any kind about whom people
have no feelings.) Although many of the statements
and quotations were edited or fictionalized, we maxi-
mized their believability by embedding them in actual
quotes or descriptions of actual events. Subjects were
given detailed instructions prior to scanning and a
practice run to familiarize them with procedure prior
to imaging trials.
Each statement set consisted of seven slides present-
ing verbal material, designed to present a clear contra-
diction between the target person’s words and actions
and then to resolve that contradiction (Figure 1). Pre-
sentation duration of the slides ranged from 5 to 15 sec,
depending on the length and demands of the material
or task, and reflected pretesting on pilot subjects. Slide
1 (15 sec) presented an initial statement, typically a
quote from the target individual. Slide 2 (12 sec) pre-
sented a contradictory statement suggesting that the
target’s words and actions were inconsistent. Slide 3
(7 sec) asked subjects to consider whether the target’s
‘‘statements and actions are inconsistent with each
other,’’ and Slide 4 (5 sec) asked them to rate the extent
to which they agreed that the target’s words and deeds
were contradictory, from 1 (strongly disagree)to4
(strongly agree) by using a four-button pad. Slide 5
(12 sec) presented an exculpatory statement that logi-
cally explained away the inconsistency. Slide 6 (7 sec)
then asked subjects to consider whether the target’s
‘‘statements and actions are not quite as inconsistent as
they first appeared.’’ The seventh and final slide (5 sec)
asked them once again to rate the extent to which they
agreed with this statement, using the same 4-point scale.
1948 Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience Volume 18, Number 11
(We refer to these seven phases of the experimental
trials throughout as statement,contradiction,Con-
sider 1,Rate 1,exculpatory statement,Consider 2,
and Rate 2.)
The progression of statements provides a reasoning
task in which subjects have to judge twice whether the
information represents a contradiction. For example,
for the practice statement set, Walter Cronkite was the
target:
Initial statement: ‘‘I think my days in journalism are
over. I’ve had a wonderful, full life, but when it’s
time to retire, it’s time to retire. And it’s my time to
retire.’’—Walter Cronkite, 1981.
Contradictory statement: Twenty-one years later, Mr.
Cronkite hosted a series on CBS.
Exculpatory statement: Mr. Cronkite had no intention
of hosting any further shows, but a longtime friend at
CBS asked him as a special favor to do a retrospective
on TV journalism.
Statement sets regarding the two candidates had the
same structure, except that the contradiction would
be threatening to partisans on one side or the other
(Table 1). We counterbalanced order of presentation of
targets, such that half of subjects (stratified by party)
were presented with a Bush statement set first and the
other half with a Kerry statement set.
fMRI Acquisition and Processing
The study was conducted on a 3-T Siemens Magnetom
Trio whole-body MRI scanner in the Biomedical Imaging
Technology Center at Emory Hospital. Brain imaging
involved the acquisition of 30 axial slices of 3 mm
thickness, acquired parallel to the AC–PC line with a
matrix size of 64 64 over a field of view of 22 22 cm.
Blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) contrast
images were acquired (TE of 30 msec) using T2*-
weighted gradient-echo, echo-planar pulse sequences
with a TR of 2.5 sec for a total of 477 scans. In addition,
a 3-D MP-RAGE sequence was collected at an isotropic
resolution of 1 11 mm for 3-D anatomic analysis
and visualization of task-related activations. Head move-
ment was limited by padding and restraint. After refor-
matting the data into the ANALYZE image format, the
images were resliced and corrected for motion by
registration to the first functional image acquired for
each subject by using a six-parameter transformation.
Images were then spatially normalized to the Montreal
Neurological Institute (MNI) template by applying a
Figure 1. The structure of the experiment. The top part describes
the sequence and length of statement sets, alternating among Bush,
Kerry, and neutral targets. The bottom describes the sequence
of phases within each set: initial statement, contradiction, first
consider statement (asking subjects to consider the contradiction),
initial rating of contradiction, exculpatory statement, second
consider statement (asking subjects to reconsider the contradiction),
and second rating of the contradiction in light of the exculpatory
information.
Table 1. Two Examples of Statement Sets
Sample Statement Set—George W. Bush
Initial ‘‘First of all, Ken Lay is a supporter of mine.
I love the man. I got to know Ken Lay
years ago, and he has given generously
to my campaign. When I’m President,
I plan to run the government like a CEO
runs a country. Ken Lay and Enron are
a model of how I’ll do that.’’—Candidate
George Bush, 2000
Contradictory Mr. Bush now avoids any mention of Ken
Lay and is critical of Enron when asked.
Exculpatory People who know the President report that
he feels betrayed by Ken Lay, and was
genuinely shocked to find that Enron’s
leadership had been corrupt.
Sample Statement Set—John Kerry
Initial During the 1996 campaign, Kerry told a
Boston Globe reporter that the Social
Security system should be overhauled.
He said Congress should consider
raising the retirement age and means-
testing benefits. ‘‘I know it’s going to
be unpopular,’’ he said. ‘‘ But we have
a generational responsibility to fix this
problem.’’
Contradictory This year, on Meet the Press, Kerry pledged
that he will never tax or cut benefits to
seniors or raise the age for eligibility for
Social Security.
Exculpatory Economic experts now suggest that, in fact,
the Social Security system will not run
out of money until 2049, not 2020, as
they had thought in 1996.
Westen et al. 1949
12-parameter affine transformation followed by non-
linear warping using basic functions. Images were
smoothed by using a Gaussian kernel of 8-mm full width
at half maximum to enhance signal-to-noise ratios and
facilitate group comparisons. Differences in global BOLD
signal were controlled by proportional scaling. Low-
frequency noise was removed by using a high-pass filter,
and an autoregressive model (SPM2) was used to ac-
count for serial correlations in the data.
fMRI Data Analysis
The data were analyzed by using a two-stage, random
effects procedure. In the first stage, the BOLD response
for each phase of the statement sets for each subject
(initial statement, contradiction, Consider 1, Rate 1,
exculpatory statement, Consider 2, Rate 2) was modeled
with the standard canonical hemodynamic response
function (cHRF). Parameter estimates of the cHRF were
created via within-subject contrasts collapsed across trial
phases. The resulting summary statistic images were
then entered into a second-stage analysis that treated
each subject as a random variable. Image analysis was
conducted by using MATLAB and Statistical Parametric
Mapping software (SPM2, Wellcome Department of
Cognitive Neurology, www.fil.ion.ucl.ac.uk/spm). The
data were analyzed in an event-related format, epochs
within each set varying in duration based on duration
of slide presentation, because we could not be certain
precisely when subjects would begin to engage in mo-
tivated reasoning, to recognize a contradiction, and so
forth. While making 4-point ratings, subjects were in-
structed to press a button on a 4-button MRI-compatible
response pad. Unless otherwise indicated, all activa-
tions were assessed at a significance level of p< .001
(uncorrected) and an extent threshold of 5 contiguous
voxels.
Planned Comparisons
We tested hypotheses using planned comparisons (con-
trast analysis), using all six statement sets per experi-
mental condition (same party, other party, neutral
target). Because the focus of this report is on partisans’
responses to threatening information about their candi-
date (rather than on differences in neural processing
between Democrats and Republicans), and because
Democrats’ neural and behavioral responses to Kerry
contradictions resembled Republicans’ responses to
Bush contradictions, we aggregated the data across
parties.
1
No subjects’ data were excluded for data anal-
ysis. We tested three primary contrasts. The first com-
pared neural responses in the same-party condition
(i.e., Republicans evaluating Bush and Democrats eval-
uating Kerry) to responses in the neutral condition (i.e.,
the neutral targets) during the contradiction phase,
when subjects were confronted with a cognitive contra-
diction. By subtracting responses to the neutral targets
from the same-party targets, we controlled for cognitive
processes involved while reasoning about a contradic-
tion relatively free of emotional entailments, to isolate
neural processes associated with emotional constraint
satisfaction.
The second contrast made use of the structural
similarity of the contradiction statement to the exculpa-
tory statement. In both statements (each presented for
12 sec), subjects were presented with information that
seemingly contradicted prior information (i.e., imposing
new cognitive constraints requiring resolution). What
differs is that the contradictory but not the exculpatory
statement generates a conflict between conclusions that
would be reached by weighing the evidence (cognitive
constraints) and desired conclusions (emotional con-
straints). Hence, the contradiction but not the exculpa-
tory statement should activate neural circuits involved in
emotion-biased motivated reasoning. Thus, the second
contrast focused on the same-party condition only,
subtracting activations related to the exculpatory state-
ment (reasoning without emotional conflict) from those
associated with the contradiction statement (reasoning
plus emotional conflict).
The third planned contrast, which is conceptually
the most complex, tested the interaction between tar-
get (same-party vs. neutral) and phase (contradiction
vs. exculpatory). In other words, this contrast describes
activations that were significantly greater when sub-
jects were processing negative versus exculpatory in-
formation for their preferred candidate versus a neutral
target. The interaction subtracts neural activity for neu-
tral targets from same-party targets (isolating con-
ditions of emotional conflict, as in the first contrast)
while partisans were processing information presenting
during the contradiction phase minus the exculpatory
phase.
RESULTS
Behavioral Ratings
Subjects’ ratings during image acquisition of the extent
to which targets’ statements and actions were incon-
sistent provided strong evidence of motivated reason-
ing (Figure 2). As can be seen from Figure 2, mean
ratings on the six Bush contradiction phases were 3.79
for Democrats versus 2.16 for Republicans, t(27) =
12.82, p< .0001, with small SEs (indicated by the error
bars). Mean ratings on the six Kerry contradictions were
2.60 (± 0.15) for Democrats versus 3.55 (± 0.12) for
Republicans, t(27) = 5.25, p< .0001. The patterns
were similar (and statistically significant) for the post-
exculpatory-phase ratings (i.e., partisans were substan-
tially more likely to accept the exculpatory statements
for their own candidate vs. the opposing candidate).
Mean ratings on the six Bush exculpatory phases were
1950 Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience Volume 18, Number 11
1.71 (± 0.14) for Democrats versus 3.50 (± 0.04) for
Republicans, t(27) = 11.69, p< .0001. Mean ratings
on the six Kerry exculpatory statements were 3.11
(± 0.16) for Democrats versus 1.82 (± 0.12) for Repub-
licans, t(27) = 6.64, p< .0001. As predicted, Democrats
and Republicans did not differ in their ratings of the
neutral targets.
Processing the Contradiction: Same-party
Candidate > Neutral Target
The first contrast subtracted neutral targets from same-
party targets during the contradiction phase (e.g., Re-
publicans evaluating Bush contradictions vs. contradic-
tions involving Hank Aaron). As can be seen in Figure 3,
processing emotionally threatening information about
one’s preferred candidate relative to a neutral target
activated distributed sites in the medial PFC, including a
large cluster of activation that included the ventral
(‘‘affective’’) subdivision of the ACC (centered at 4, 42,
10; size = 323 voxels; Z= 3.86), as well as the more
rostral (‘‘cognitive ’’) subdivision (Bush, Luu, & Posner,
2000), and extending into the ventromedial PFC, a
region associated with affective processing and emotion-
al influences on reasoning (Miller, Taber, Gabbard, &
Hurley, 2005; Davidson, 2002; Hamann, Ely, Hoffman, &
Kilts, 2002; Hamann & Mao, 2002). A superior medial
prefrontal region (at 2, 46, 28; size = 66 voxels; Z=
3.71) was also activated. The other notable finding was a
large area of activation in the posterior cingulate cortex
(along with coextensive regions of the precuneus and
inferior parietal cortex, at 2, 52, 18; size = 3340 voxels;
Z= 6.40), associated in prior studies with neural
processing related to social emotions, moral evaluations,
and judgments of forgivability (Cunningham, Raye, &
Johnson, 2004; Farrow et al., 2001; Greene, Sommerville,
Nystrom, Darley, & Cohen, 2001).
To rule out the alternative hypothesis that these
activations might simply reflect general emotion pro-
cessing, we ran a secondary contrast subtracting re-
sponses to neutral targets from those to other-party
targets (i.e., Democrats evaluating Bush, Republicans
evaluating Kerry) during the same contradiction phase.
This contrast produced a single, large area of activation
centered in the posterior cingulate and extending to the
precuneus and posterior parietal cortex (Figure 4) (at 4,
42, 26; size = 3598 voxels; Z= 5.46). Thus, evaluating
a contradiction with strong moral overtones led to
activation of the posterior cingulate cortex and precu-
neus for both same-party and other-party candidates.
However, only when the contradiction created conf lict
between data and desire (i.e., when unbiased reasoning
would produce judgments with negative emotional con-
sequences) did we observe a large activation of the ACC
and medial PFC.
We had predicted that processing emotionally threaten-
ing information about one’s preferred candidate relative
Figure 2. Subjects’ ratings of perceived contradictions in
statements by Bush, Kerry, and neutral figures (higher ratings
indicate greater perceived contradictions). Democrats and
Republicans reasoned to distinctly different conclusions about
their preferred candidates, with mirror-image responses: Democrats
readily identified the contradictions in Bush’s statements but not
Kerry’s, whereas Republicans readily identified the contradictions
in Kerry’s statements but not Bush’s.
2
As can be seen from the
SEM bars, the distributions of responses were nonoverlapping,
demonstrating powerful effects of motivated reasoning. In
contrast, Democrats and Republicans reasoned similarly about
the contradictions of politically neutral figures.
Figure 3. Three orthogonal
views (axial, sagittal, coronal;
at x=0,y= 50, z=6)of
the areas of activation that
differed when subjects were
confronted with contradictory
(threatening) information
regarding their own party’s
candidate versus a neutral
target person. ACC =
anterior cingulate; mPFC =
medial prefrontal cortex;
pCING = posterior cingulate;
PCU = precuneus; vmPFC =
ventromedial prefrontal cortex.
Westen et al. 1951
to a neutral target would activate the amygdala, but
we did not observe amygdala activation in our primary
contrasts. Because the amygdala has been characterized
as often exhibiting a transient, rapidly habituating re-
sponse to emotional stimuli (Breiter et al., 1996), we
examined whether amygdala activation might be present
only during the earlier part of the session, focusing again
on the contradiction phase. For each condition (same-
party, other-party, and neutral target), we separately
contrasted the responses observed in the first half of
the session with those in the latter half (i.e., the
contradiction phase of the first three statement sets
for each target vs. the last three) to assess whether
habituation of amygdala response occurred across the
session.
For this exploratory analysis, we set a statistical signif-
icance threshold of p< .005 and an extent threshold of
five contiguous voxels, given the lower power of these
contrasts. Supporting the habituation hypothesis, for
the same-party condition, we observed greater amygdala
activation during the first half of the session relative to
the second half, in the left amygdala (at 22, 4, 12;
size = 13 voxels; Z= 3.19). This effect was also observed
for the other-party condition, also in the left amygdala
(at 22, 4, 22; size = 8 voxels; Z= 2.84), perhaps
reflecting arousal associated with the detection of a
contradiction associated with a disliked opponent (i.e.,
schadenfreude). More importantly, this habituation ef-
fect was absent for the neutral-target condition, in line
with the hypothesized weak emotional response to
contradictory statements associated with a relatively
neutral individual.
Same-party Condition: Contradictory >
Exculpatory Information
Our second primary contrast subtracted processing
during the exculpatory phase from the contradiction
phase for same-party conditions only. This allowed us to
examine two phases in which subjects had to make
judgments about new information that contradicted
prior information, isolating processes involved when
the emotionally desired conclusion did not coincide
with the conclusion likely to be drawn based on unbi-
ased assessment of the data (Figure 5). The contrast
analysis showed activations in the left lateral inferior
frontal cortex (at 28, 24, 24; size = 31 voxels; Z=
4.51) and left insula (not shown: at 36, 18, 18; size =
190 voxels; Z= 4.47), both consistent with processing of
negative affect (Wright, He, Shapira, Goodman, & Liu,
2004). Also seen were activations in the inferior orbital
frontal cortex (gyrus rectus) bilaterally (at 2, 42, 24;
size = 230 voxels; Z= 4.15), indicative of emotion pro-
cessing (Ballmaier et al., 2004; Kilts, Egan, Glideon, Ely, &
Hoffman, 2002; O’Doherty, Kringelbach, Rolls, Hornak,
& Andrews, 2001; Bechara, Damasio, & Damasio, 2000)
as well as the precuneus (suggesting evaluative judg-
ments, as above) (at 6, 56, 18; size = 278 voxels;
Z= 3.98). Because the orbitofrontal cortex has been
proposed to be crucially involved in emotional in-
Figure 4. Three orthogonal
views (axial, sagittal, coronal;
at x=0,y= 50, z=6)of
the areas of activation that
differed when subjects were
confronted with contradictory
(threatening) information
regarding the opposing party’s
candidate versus a neutral
target person. pCING =
posterior cingulate; PCU =
precuneus; PPC = posterior
parietal cortex.
Figure 5. Partisans’ neural
responses to the contradiction
versus exculpatory statements
regarding their party’s
candidate. It presents three
orthogonal views (axial,
sagittal, coronal; axial, sagittal,
coronal; at x=0,y= 34,
z=22) of the neural
regions showing greater
activation while partisans
were reading emotionally
threatening information (contradiction phase) relative to nonthreatening (exculpatory phase) information. PHG = parahippocampal gyrus;
lOFC = lateral orbitofrontal cortex; mOFC = medial orbitofrontal cortex; PCU = precuneus.
1952 Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience Volume 18, Number 11
fluences on reasoning (Damasio, 1994), we examined
whether this orbitofrontal activation was specific to the
same-party condition by performing the same contra-
dictory > exculpatory contrast with the neutral target
condition. Only a single, small activation was observed
in the orbitofrontal cortex, in the gyrus rectus (at 2, 28,
24; size = 17 voxels; Z= 3.60), consistent with the
lower hypothesized involvement of emotion processing
in this condition (Figure 6). The only other prominent
activations for the same-party condition contrasts were
bilateral activations in the parahippocampal gyrus and
extending to the hippocampus (at 36, 34, 18; size =
126 voxels; Z= 4.03 and 26, 26, 18; size = 190; Z=
4.47), perhaps indicative of efforts to generate solutions
(rationalizations) based on memory retrieval. As in the
first primary contrast, in this second primary contrast we
observed no differential activation of the dorsolateral
PFC (DLPFC), suggesting that motivated reasoning did
not differentially engage regions previously linked with
conscious attempts to reason, suppress information, or
regulate affect.
Testing the Interaction: Contradictory >
Exculpatory Information for Same-party >
Neutral Target
The third primary contrast (Figure 7) tested the inter-
action between target (same-party vs. neutral) and phase
(contradiction vs. exculpatory). Consistent with the
expectation that same-party contradictions would elicit
negative affect, the contrast yielded activations in the
right lateral orbital frontal cortex (not shown: maximum
at 38, 52, 8; size = 130 voxels; Z= 4.16). Also
consistent with affect processing and regulation were
multiple activations throughout the ACC, medial and
orbital PFC (at 2, 40, 10; size = 952; Z= 4.74), and left
superior frontal gyrus (at 24, 56, 12; size 90; Z= 4.11)
associated in previous studies with moral reasoning and
evaluation of self-generated information (Farrow et al.,
2001). The contrast also showed large activations in the
posterior cingulate/precuneus (at 8, 50, 8; size =
3114; Z= 6.27).
Postdecision Judgment: Consider1 > Consider2
for Same-party Targets
We performed a fourth, more exploratory analysis to
isolate the neural information processing related to
equilibrated, emotionally constrained solutions (i.e.,
solutions biased by emotional considerations). We hy-
pothesized that neural processing indices of negative
affect would be diminished or absent following moti-
vated reasoning (because the function of motivated
reasoning is hypothesized to be the elimination of the
aversive affect states associated with threatening infor-
mation). An inherent limitation of the study design was
Figure 6. Three orthogonal
views (at the same axial,
sagittal, and coronal levels as
in Figure 5 for comparison;
at x=0,y= 34, z=22)
of the neural regions that
were significantly more active
when subjects were processing
threatening versus exculpatory
information for neutral targets.
mOFC = medial orbitofrontal
cortex; paraCL = paracentral
lobule; SMA = supplementary
motor area; mb = mammillary
bodies.
Figure 7. Three orthogonal
views (axial, sagittal, coronal;
at x=0,y= 44, z=6)of
the neural regions that were
significantly more active when
subjects were processing
threatening versus exculpatory
information for their party’s
candidate versus a neutral
target. ACC = anterior
cingulate; mPFC = medial
prefrontal cortex; pCING =
posterior cingulate; PCU =
precuneus; supPFC =
superior prefrontal cortex.
Westen et al. 1953
that we could not be sure precisely when subjects had
reached conclusions over the course of exposure to the
contradiction and instruction to consider it. However,
given that the structure of the task was identical across
all 18 statement sets, and subjects had 15 sec to read
the initial statement and 12 sec to think about the
contradiction for each statement set, we expected that
most would have equilibrated to solutions (including
emotionally biased solutions) by the time they reached
the Consider 1 phase (or at the latest during the Rate 1
phase). We thus subtracted neural activity during the
second Consider 2 phase (after subjects had 12 sec to
consider the exculpatory information) from the first
Consider 1 phase (after having had 12 sec to think about
the contradiction) for same-party targets. This allowed
us to isolate the neural responses associated with the
cognitive products of emotional constraint satisfaction
(i.e., the neural response to having generated a solu-
tion that resolved a cognitive–emotional conf lict).
The contrast yielded a large activation in the ventral
striatum (Figure 8) (at 2, 0, 2; size = 982 voxels; Z=
4.58), centered on the right caudate and extending to
the left caudate, bilateral putamen, and pallidum. Activ-
ity in the ventral striatum, particularly the caudate
nucleus, has been observed in paradigms in which
contingencies exist between behavior and reward, as in
reinforcement-based learning (Delgado, Miller, Inati, &
Phelps, 2005). Given that subjects would be expected to
experience some relief after resolving the uncertainty
associated with a cognitive–emotional conflict, this sug-
gests a possible reinforcement mechanism for motivated
judgments. Caudate responses to positive and negative
feedback have been shown to be modulated by prior
social and moral beliefs regarding a partner in an
interactive social trust paradigm (Delgado, Frank, &
Phelps, 2005), suggesting that neural reinforcement
mechanisms for motivated judgments may be inf luenced
by affective social biases. Additional activations were
observed near the ventral ACC (at 14, 48, 4; size =
86 voxels; Z= 4.31), suggesting continued neural pro-
cessing related to affect regulation, as well as activa-
tion of left parietal regions (not shown, largest cluster
at 46, 60, 54; size = 17 voxels; Z= 4.07) indicative of
effortful processing (perhaps reflecting efforts to bolster
rationalizations in support of motivated reasoning; see
Ditto, Munro, Apanovitch, Scepansky, & Lockhart, 2003).
The association of equilibrated decisions with (nega-
tive) reinforcement was further represented in dimin-
ished activations in the lateral orbital frontal and insular
cortex, sites related to negative affect.
We ran two secondary contrasts to clarify further the
functional inferences from this fourth contrast. First, we
compared the two consider phases for the neutral
targets. This contrast yielded few significant activations,
all located outside of the regions implicated in motivat-
ed reasoning (e.g., small areas of visual cortex), sug-
gesting the absence of the reinforcement mechanisms
hypothesized to underlie the results obtained for same-
party targets. Second, to test our conjecture that sub-
jects had already equilibrated to a conclusion by the
time they were asked to consider the contradiction, we
contrasted neural activity during the second ( postexcul-
patory) rating phase from the first (postcontradiction)
rating phase for the same-party condition. These phases
occurred immediately after the consider phases for
which we found substantial reinforcement effects. This
contrast yielded spatially large activations in the left
DLPFC (at 54, 0, 44; size 437; Z= 5.02) and a small
activation in the orbital frontal cortex (maximum at 4,
44, 20; size = 20 voxels; Z= 3.37). The DLPFC
activations could reflect either the tendency toward
effortful cognitive processing (overgeneration of cogni-
tion) observed in behavioral studies of motivated cogni-
tion, which likely follows in rapid succession an implicit
judgment (i.e., to ‘‘shore up’’ the defensive cognition),
or the fact that the postexculpatory ratings required
minimal processing because cognitive and affective con-
straints were congruent.
Task-related Deactivations in the Resting Circuit
Our primary hypotheses concerned differential levels of
activation between the experimental conditions and
phases, independent of the relation between these
levels and those of the resting baseline or no-task
periods. However, because of interest in task-related
Figure 8. Three orthogonal
views (axial, sagittal, coronal;
at x= 12, y=0,z=0)of
regions significantly more
active when partisans had
presumably equilibrated to
solutions regarding their
party’s candidate (i.e., when
they were asked to consider
the initial contradiction) than
when asked to consider the
contradiction again following
the exculpatory information. Neural regions previously active suggesting negative affect processing are no longer active. However, the ventral
striatum shows a large region of activation, suggesting reward or reinforcement. vSTR = ventral striatum; ACC = anterior cingulate.
1954 Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience Volume 18, Number 11
deactivations during active experimental tasks relative to
low-level resting or baseline conditions (as reviewed in
Gusnard & Raichle, 2001), we conducted a descriptive
analysis to characterize regions of task-related deactiva-
tion for the contradictory and exculpatory phases in the
neutral-target condition. The neutral condition was se-
lected because of its primary role as a control condition
in the between-condition contrasts. The main deactiva-
tion effects relative to the modeled signal baseline (i.e., a
contrast weight of 1forthemaineffect)forthe
contradictory and exculpatory phases were separately
assessed for the neutral-target condition, using a thresh-
old of p< .05, corrected for multiple comparisons, and
an extent threshold of 10 contiguous voxels. Matching
prior findings of a resting circuit involving primarily
medial structures (Gusnard & Raichle, 2001), we ob-
served two primary regions of medial task-related deac-
tivation, including a large anterior cluster spanning the
ACC and medial orbitofrontal gyrus (maximum at 2, 46,
8; size = 933 voxels; Z= 6.90; p< .000; and maximum
at 2, 46, 4; size = 742 voxels; Z= 7.21; p< .000, for
both the contradictory and exculpatory phases, respec-
tively) and a posterior cluster spanning the middle and
posterior cingulate and precuneus (with maxima at 10,
38, 44; size = 1,378 voxels; Z= 7.53; p< .000; and at
4, 44, 48; size = 1319 voxels; Z= 6.97; p< .000, once
again for both the contradictory and exculpatory phases,
respectively).
DISCUSSION
This is, we believe, the first study to describe the neural
correlates of motivated reasoning (and the closely relat-
ed constructs of implicit affect regulation, psychological
defense, confirmatory biases, and forms of cognitive
dissonance involving cognitive–evaluative discrepancies;
see Westen, 1985, 1994). It is also, we believe, the first
study describing the neural correlates of political judg-
ment and decision-making.
Consistent with prior studies of partisan biases and
motivated reasoning, when confronted with informa-
tion about their candidate that would logically lead
them to an emotionally aversive conclusion, partisans
arrived at an alternative conclusion. This process was
not associated with differential activation of the DLPFC,
as in studies of ‘‘cold’’ reasoning and explicit emotion
regulation (suppression). Rather, it was associated
with activations in the lateral and medial orbital PFC,
ACC, insula, and the posterior cingulate and contig-
uous precuneus and parietal cortex. Neural informa-
tion processing related to motivated reasoning appears
to be qualitatively different from reasoning in the ab-
sence of a strong emotional stake in the conclusions
reached.
These findings support the role of a network of
functionally integrated brain areas in motivated rea-
soning. Activations of the left insula, lateral orbital
frontal cortex, and VMPFC have been associated with
experiences of punishment, pain, and negative affect
(Hamann, 2003; O’Doherty et al., 2001). The role of the
VMPFC in cognitive–affective interactions is well estab-
lished (Damasio, 1994) and was hypothesized a priori in
this study to be centrally involved in implicit appraisal
and reappraisal of emotionally threatening information.
Activation of the left ventral lateral frontal cortex may
also be implicated in affect regulation. Previous studies
of (explicit) emotion regulation (Anderson et al., 2004;
Hariri et al., 2003; Ochsner et al., 2002) observed
activation of the lateral ventral PFC when subjects were
cognitively suppressing responses to negative emotional
stimuli; this in turn was associated with decreased
amygdala response.
Consistent with previous studies that have character-
ized the amygdala as frequently exhibiting a rapidly
habituating response to stimuli, we observed left amyg-
dala activation during the phase where maximal emo-
tional response was predicted (i.e., the contradiction
phase), but only during the first half of the experiment.
This amygdala activation was observed in the two con-
ditions where strong emotional response was expected
to occur during the contradiction phase (the same-party
and other party conditions) but did not occur in the
neutral-target condition where a lesser emotional re-
sponse was expected.
The dorsomedial frontal cortex is associated with
such processes as self-reference (D’Argembeau et al.,
2005; Fossati et al., 2003) and sympathy (Decety &
Chaminade, 2003), which are congruent with the hy-
pothesized processes by which partisans reason to emo-
tionally biased conclusions about a candidate with
whom they are presumably identified. Interestingly,
the pattern of activity associated with implicit affect reg-
ulation in this study differs in an important respect from
the pattern seen when subjects consciously attempt to
regulate their affects by reappraising negative stimuli
(Ochsner et al., 2002) in the increased rather than
decreased activation observed in medial orbitofrontal
circuits and in the absence of differential DLPFC activa-
tion as subjects are altering their cognitions. Of rele-
vance, recent research (Dunbar & Fugelsang, 2005) on
the neural correlates of evaluation of information incon-
sistent with prior beliefs (but not emotionally threaten-
ing) yielded activations in the ACC and precuneus but
in the DLPFC rather than the VMPFC, suggesting the
difference between cognitive constraint satisfaction in
the absence of strong emotional constraints and con-
flicts between cognitive and emotional constraints.
The activation of the ACC, particularly its ventral
affective subdivision, is consistent with distress-related
to error detection (Bush et al., 2000) and motivational/
emotional error detection, correction, and response
(Ridderinkhof, Ullsperger, Crone, & Nieuwenhuis,
2004). Activation of the ACC is associated more generally
Westen et al. 1955
with modulation of activity in other brain regions (e.g.,
turning on cognitive activity, toning down affective
activity; Bush, 2004; Bush et al., 2000) and often predicts
subsequent activation of the DLPFC, as the person
corrects a mistaken response (Ridderinkhof et al.,
2004). This may be relevant to our finding of an increase
in activity of the DLPFC once subjects had apparently
drawn emotionally biased conclusions.
The activation in the posterior cingulate, precuneus,
and adjacent parietal cortex in motivated reasoning fits
well with studies showing activation in this region when
people are judging forgivability of an action (Farrow
et al., 2001) and making emotionally laden moral judg-
ments (Greene et al., 2001). These brain regions are also
involved in emotion processing, emotional memory, and
evaluative processing more generally (Cunningham et al.,
2004; Maddock, Garrett, & Buonocore, 2003; Paradiso
et al., 1999). The posterior cingulate also appears to be
involved in judgments about one’s own and others’
feeling states (Ochsner et al., 2004) and has been
reported in one study to be activated by threat words
(Maddock et al., 2003; Maddock & Buonocore, 1997).
The posterior cingulate was activated in the present
study while subjects were judging the culpability of both
their own and the opposite party’s candidate; however,
the combination of a robust posterior cingulate activa-
tion with a large ACC activation distinguished processing
of emotionally aversive information (i.e., threats to one’s
own candidate).
The large activation of the ventral striatum that fol-
lowed subjects’ processing of threatening information
likely reflects reward or relief engendered by ‘‘success-
ful’’ equilibration to an emotionally stable judgment.
The combination of reduced negative affect (absence of
activity in the insula and lateral orbital cortex) and
increased positive affect or reward (ventral striatum
activation) once subjects had ample time to reach biased
conclusions suggests why motivated judgments may be
so difficult to change (i.e., they are doubly reinforcing).
These findings lend some support to a speculation made
a number of years ago that the phenomenon described
for a century in the clinical literature as psychological
defense (e.g., denial, rationalization, motivated distor-
tion) involves the operant conditioning of mental pro-
cesses, such that people are reinforced by escape from
negative (and perhaps elicitation of positive) affect (see
Westen & Blagov, in press; Westen, 1985). Of potential
relevance, several researchers have found avoidance
and escape conditioning to be associated with dopa-
mine release in the nucleus accumbens and dorsal
striatum in other animals (Rada, Mark, & Hoebel, 1998;
Salamone, Cousins, & Snyder, 1997).
Limitations
The study has several limitations. First, because this is
the first study to examine the neural correlates of both
motivated reasoning and political decision-making, we
chose to conduct whole-brain versus targeted region-of-
interest analyses. Second, because of data suggesting
some differences in the processing of emotion in men
and women (Canli, Desmond, Zhao, & Gabrieli, 2002),
we only studied men and hence cannot generalize to
women without future investigation. Third, because of
the complexity of the task and the fact that partisans are
likely to recognize and respond to an emotionally
significant contradiction of the sort presented here at
different temporal rates, we could not be certain pre-
cisely when subjects began to engage in motivated
reasoning. Future research should attempt to parse
the timeline for defensive responding more clearly and
‘‘window’’ data analyses accordingly to distinguish initial
emotional reactions to threatening information, equili-
bration to motivated solutions, response to resolution of
the conflict (e.g., reward), and subsequent cognitive
activity (e.g., explicit rationalization). Fourth, because
of limitations of time imposed by the U.S. presidential
election cycle and the difficulty in identifying people
without any partisan leanings, particularly in the midst of
a polarized election (Abramowitz, 2004), we examined
only committed partisans and used politically neutral
within- rather than between-subject controls. Future
studies involving larger subject samples should examine
the continuum of partisan feelings studied in research
using NES data (i.e., from strong Democrat to strong
Republican). Finally, we tested motivated reasoning in
only one domain (politics). We chose this domain
because of 50 years of research documenting emotion-
ally biased decision-making and because it allowed us
to identify subjects who would likely show defensive
responses to the same stimuli. Nevertheless, future re-
search should examine the neural correlates of moti-
vated reasoning in other domains.
Reprint requests should be sent to Drew Westen, Departments
of Psychology and Psychiatry, Emory University, 532 N. Kilgo
Circle, Atlanta, GA 30322, or via e-mail: dwesten@emory.edu.
Notes
1. Elsewhere, we will address any neural differences between
Democrats and Republicans as they responded to these
statements or to photographs of political, nonpolitical social,
and emotional stimuli presented after the tasks described here.
2. Republicans showed a small but significant tendency to
reason to more biased conclusions regarding Bush than Demo-
crats did toward Kerry, t(27) = 2.47, p= .020.
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1958 Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience Volume 18, Number 11
... Indeed, one explanation for science denial is motivated reasoning: noticing, interpreting, and recalling information in ways that confirm strongly held worldviews, identities, and other preconceptions (Kunda, 1990). This process tends to be implicit and can entail various strategies, such as approaching or avoiding certain information, selectively searching specific types of memories, or creatively combining knowledge to construct new beliefs that provide seemingly logical bases for the desired conclusion (Kunda, 1990;Westen et al., 2006). ...
... If risks threaten something that is important for a person, like worldviews, people sometimes use different self-protection strategies to cope with the threat/risk (Wullenkord & Reese, 2021). Some emotional aspects, like unconstructive emotion regulation, are closely related to motivated reasoning (Westen et al., 2006). Indeed, one of the goals of motivated reasoning is to restore and maintain a positive emotional state that may be threatened if one's cherished worldviews and identities are challenged (Westen et al., 2006). ...
... Some emotional aspects, like unconstructive emotion regulation, are closely related to motivated reasoning (Westen et al., 2006). Indeed, one of the goals of motivated reasoning is to restore and maintain a positive emotional state that may be threatened if one's cherished worldviews and identities are challenged (Westen et al., 2006). For example, Feinberg and Willer (2011) found that, when people who embraced just-world beliefs were confronted with dire messages about climaterelated injustices, they tended to de-emphasize the seriousness of climate change rather than face the aroused anxiety. ...
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Science denial has adverse consequences at individual and societal levels, and even for the future of our planet. The present article aimed to answer the question: What leads people to deny even the strongest evidence and distrust the scientific method? The article provides a narrative review of research on underpinnings of science denial, with the main focus on climate change denial. Perspectives that are commonly studied separately are integrated. We review some key findings on the roles of disinformation and basic cognitive processes, motivated reasoning (focusing on ideology and populism), and emotion regulation in potentially shaping (or not shaping) views on science and the scientific topics. We also include research on youth, a group that is in an important transition phase in life, and that are the future decision makers, but that is less commonly focused on in the research field. In sum, we describe how the manifestations of denial can stem from cognitive biases, motivated efforts to find seemingly rational support for desirable conclusions, or attempts to regulate emotions when feeling threatened or powerless. To foster future research agendas and mindful applications of the results, we identify some research gaps (most importantly related to cross-cultural considerations) and examine the unique features or science denial as an object of psychological research. Based on the review, we make recommendations on measurement, science communication, and education.
... 15 As such, various forms of confirmation bias have been documented across several domains including climate change, the effects of video games and politics. [16][17][18] The present study was designed to investigate the extent to which people exhibit confirmation bias when evaluating information about vaccines. Would those in favor of or against vaccines more accurately interpret data when it supported their existing beliefs? ...
Article
Background In recent history mass vaccination has proved essential to dealing with pandemics. However, the effectiveness of a vaccine depends on the number of people willing to take it. One approach to encouraging uptake is to publish information about safety and effectiveness. But confirmation bias research in other domains suggests that people may evaluate this information through the lens of their existing beliefs. Methods This study used a simple 2 × 2 design to investigate whether people’s (n = 3899) existing beliefs influenced their ability to correctly evaluate data from a fictional trial presented in a frequency table. Treatment groups saw different trial outcomes (intervention effective versus ineffective and trial related versus unrelated to vaccines). Results Results provided robust evidence for confirmation bias in the domain of vaccines: people made systematic errors (P < 0.01) when evaluating evidence that was inconsistent with their prior beliefs. This pattern emerged among people with both pro-vaccination and anti-vaccination attitudes. Errors were attributed to confirmation bias because no such differences were detected when participants evaluated data unrelated to vaccines. Conclusions People are prone to misinterpreting evidence about vaccines in ways that reflect their underlying beliefs. Confirmation bias is an important consideration for vaccine communication.
... A self-evident potential cost of too little OtoE would be resistance to new beneficial ideas due to a person being overly conservative. An overly conservative personality could plausibly also contribute to an increased propensity for motivated reasoning (Kunda 1990;Westen et al. 2006) and some forms of self-deception (Smith et al. 2017). Because high OtoE is associated with a propensity for vivid imagination, it might also lead to the confounding of reality and fantasy when trial-&-error is simulated via imagine-&-error in the ...
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When animals evolve sufficient intelligence and dexterity to be able to learn to fabricate utility products (UPs) like tools, the UP's they produce become part of an induced-reproduction system that intrinsically shares many life-like traits with biological organisms, including genome-like fabrication and operation information that is physically-encoded in the animal fabricator’s neural networks. When this set of life- like traits includes a sufficient capacity for system-improving cultural evolution (UP-evolvability), the UPs become ‘para-alive’, i.e., nearly alive, or a form of non-biological UP-paralife that is equivalent to the life- status of biological viruses, plasmids, and transposons. In the companion paper I focus on the evolution of UP-paralife in the context of modern, language-capable humans and its predicted evolution going forward in time (Rice 2022). Here I look backward in time and focus on the origin of UP-paralife and its subsequent coevolution with human intelligence. I begin by determining the pathways leading to the evolution of large brains in the rare lineages of biological life that have sufficient intelligence to learn to fabricate tools –a critical first step in the evolution of UP-paralife. The simplest forms of these learning- based UPs, made by species like chimpanzees and New Caledonian crows, represent only proto-UP- paralife because they lack sufficient UP-evolvability. Expanded UP-evolvability required a combination of three attributes that enabled continuous niche-expansion of the animal fabricator via a new and advanced form of UP-mediated teamwork (TW): i) self-domestication that facilitated TW among low-related individuals, ii) learned volitional words (protolanguage) that represent ephemeral UPs that coordinate TW, and iii) learned fabrication of simple flaked-stone tools with cutting and chopping capabilities (a UP to make other structural UPs) that expanded teammate phenotypes and TW capabilities. This specific triad of attributes is synergistic because each one acts as a TW-enhancer that can gradually erode different components of the three major constraints on TW operation and expansion: too much selfishness, insufficient coordination signals, and insufficient physical traits of teammates. The increase in UP- evolvability was transformative and marked the origin of UP-paralife and the initiation of coevolution between UP-paralife (cultural evolution) and the intelligence of its hominin/human symbiont (genetic evolution) that fostered 2.5 million years of: i) continuous brain size increase and niche-expansion within the genus Homo, and ii) parallel advances in the diversity, complexity and uses of UP-paralife. This coevolution also fostered evolutionary expansion of word-based communication, and eventually language, that acted in a catalyst-like manner to facilitate the evolution of increasingly complex forms of imagination, reasoning, mentalizing, and UP-generating technology. I next focus on the evolution of creativity in the human lineage –in the form of divergent thinking and creative imagination. I conclude that the evolution of this advanced cognitive feature required a preadaptation of sufficient intelligence and is the component of human cognition that was the major causal factor generating the greatly expanded diversity and complexity of UP-paralife currently associated with modern humans. Lastly, I apply my findings to the issue of the prevalence of extraterrestrial intelligent life. I conclude that any exoplanets with detected chemical life will very rarely (e.g., probability ~10-5 for a planet closely matching Earth’s characteristics) have evolved intelligence equalling or exceeding that of humans.
... Kad su ljudi suočeni sa informacijom pretećom po predstavu kandidata kog podržavaju, fokusiraju se na šta veruju i odbacuju suprotstavljene informacije. Ovo motivisano rezonovanje ima osnovu u VMPFCx, ACCx, PCCx, insularnoj kori i lateralnoj orbitalnoj kori (Westen et al., 2006). Veći otpor uverenja dao je povišen odgovor u dorzomedijalnom PFCx i smanjenu aktivnost u OFCx. ...
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Personality and environment interact to influence attitudes formation. Group processes, reasoning, traits, and brain activity have been used to explain political attitudes and behavior. Social phenomena have been associated with clinical indicators, albeit with inconclusive results. Psychobiological model of personality measures temperament dispositions in interaction with character, i.e., with mental health and success of social adaptation. They overcome a need for separate measurements of adaptive and maladaptive trait correlates. Such an efficient approach integrates traits measurement along the dimension of normalcy-pathology. We set out to investigate associations between the model and Right-Wing Authoritarianism, Conspiracy Mentality, and Manichean Worldview in a non-representative community sample. The model accounted for 24% of variance in RWA and negligible percentages in the rest. The strongest predictor was found to be Self-Transcendence, followed by Impulsiveness and Persistence, with Exploratory Excitability and Reward Dependence as negative predictors. There were no correlations between mental health and socio-political constructs. Implications are discussed.
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Why do some people engage in serial killing for sexual pleasure? This book considers the phenomenon of sexual serial killing from the perspective of motivation theory, as advanced in psychology and neuroscience. By examining biological, psychological and social determinants, it develops a model of sexual killing that integrates widely dispersed existing literature. The first part of the book reviews scientific data and theories, while the second part presents biographical sketches of 80 sexual killers and links their early development and later killing to current theoretical understanding. The book examines cases of serial killers from the USA, Western Europe, Iran, Australia and South Africa, and it also includes an account of killers from the USSR, made available to non-Russian speakers for the first time. Deliberately written to avoid jargon, Understanding Sexual Serial Killing is accessible to students, scholars and professionals across psychology, sociology, forensic science and law.
Chapter
Beliefs play a central role in our lives. They lie at the heart of what makes us human, they shape the organization and functioning of our minds, they define the boundaries of our culture, and they guide our motivation and behavior. Given their central importance, researchers across a number of disciplines have studied beliefs, leading to results and literatures that do not always interact. The Cognitive Science of Belief aims to integrate these disconnected lines of research to start a broader dialogue on the nature, role, and consequences of beliefs. It tackles timeless questions, as well as applications of beliefs that speak to current social issues. This multidisciplinary approach to beliefs will benefit graduate students and researchers in cognitive science, psychology, philosophy, political science, economics, and religious studies.
Chapter
Beliefs play a central role in our lives. They lie at the heart of what makes us human, they shape the organization and functioning of our minds, they define the boundaries of our culture, and they guide our motivation and behavior. Given their central importance, researchers across a number of disciplines have studied beliefs, leading to results and literatures that do not always interact. The Cognitive Science of Belief aims to integrate these disconnected lines of research to start a broader dialogue on the nature, role, and consequences of beliefs. It tackles timeless questions, as well as applications of beliefs that speak to current social issues. This multidisciplinary approach to beliefs will benefit graduate students and researchers in cognitive science, psychology, philosophy, political science, economics, and religious studies.
Article
The current study focuses on the use of outcome framing as a strategic negative message tactic and its impact on partisans. Specifically, this study theorises that the impact of partisan cues such as party affiliation is moderated by differently framed claims in negative political advertising. Participants viewed a negative ad, varying in outcome framing (negative ramifications of electing the targeted candidate versus positive consequences of defeating the target) and partisan matching (in-party versus out-party). Participants were recruited via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Experiment 1 ( N = 96), where a Republican candidate was the target of a negative ad, revealed that the persuasiveness of a loss-framed negative ad significantly increased in the out-party versus in-party condition. Experiment 2 ( N = 123), where a Democratic candidate was the target of a negative ad, found that a loss framed-negative ad was significantly more influential than a gain-framed negative ad in both in-party and out-party conditions. Implications exist for design and practice of negative campaign messaging.
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Despite unprecedented access to information, partisans increasingly disagree about basic facts that are backed by data, posing a serious threat to a democracy that relies on finding common ground based on objective truths. We examine the underpinnings of this phenomenon using drift diffusion modeling (DDM). Partisans (N = 148) completed a sequential sampling task where they evaluated the honesty of Democrat or Republican politicians during a debate based on fact-check scores. We found that partisans required less and weaker evidence to correctly categorize the ingroup as more honest, and were more accurate on trials when the ingroup candidate was more honest, compared to the outgroup. DDM revealed that such tendencies arise from both a prior preference for categorizing the ingroup as more honest (i.e., biased starting point) and more precise accumulation of information favoring the ingroup candidate compared to the outgroup (i.e., biased drift rate). Moreover, individual differences in cognitive reasoning moderated task performance for the most devoted partisans and maintained divergent associations with the DDM parameters. This suggests that partisans may reach biased conclusions via different pathways depending on their depth of cognitive reasoning. These findings provide key insights into the mechanisms driving partisan divides in polarized environments, and can inform interventions that reduce impasse and conflict.
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It is commonly assumed that algorithmic curation of search results creates filter bubbles, where users’ beliefs are continually reinforced and opposing views are suppressed. However, empirical evidence has failed to support this hypothesis. Instead, it has been suggested that filter bubbles may result from individuals engaging selectively with information in search engine results pages. However, this “self-imposed filter bubble hypothesis” has remained empirically untested. In this study, we find support for the hypothesis using eye-tracking technology and link selection data. We presented partisan participants (n = 48) with sets of simulated Google Search results, controlling for the ideological leaning of each link. Participants spent more time viewing own-side links than other links (p = .037). In our sample, participants who identified as right-wing exhibited a greater such bias than those that identified as left wing (p < .001). In addition, we found that both liberals and conservatives tended to select own-side links (p < .001). Finally, there was a significant effect of trust, such that links associated with less trusted sources were attended less and selected less often by liberals and conservatives alike (p < .001). Our study challenges the efficacy of policies that aim at combatting filter bubbles by presenting users with an ideologically diverse set of search results.
Chapter
Citizens and Politics: Perspectives from Political Psychology brings together some of the research on citizen decision making. It addresses the questions of citizen political competence from different political psychology perspectives. Some of the authors in this volume look to affect and emotions to determine how people reach political judgements, others to human cognition and reasoning. Still others focus on perceptions or basic political attitudes such as political ideology. Several demonstrate the impact of values on policy preferences. The collection features chapters from some of the most talented political scientists in the field.
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Anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) is a part of the brain's limbic system. Classically, this region has been related to affect, on the basis of lesion studies in humans and in animals. In the late 1980s, neuroimaging research indicated that ACC was active in many studies of cognition. The findings from EEG studies of a focal area of negativity in scalp electrodes following an error response led to the idea that ACC might be the brain's error detection and correction device. In this article, these various findings are reviewed in relation to the idea that ACC is a part of a circuit involved in a form of attention that serves to regulate both cognitive and emotional processing. Neuroimaging studies showing that separate areas of ACC are involved in cognition and emotion are discussed and related to results showing that the error negativity is influenced by affect and motivation. In addition, the development of the emotional and cognitive roles of ACC are discussed, and how the success of this regulation in controlling responses might be correlated with cingulate size. Finally, some theories are considered about how the different subdivisions of ACC might interact with other cortical structures as a part of the circuits involved in the regulation of mental and emotional activity.
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Causal reasoning is a key way in which we understand the world and make sense of the constant stream of information that we are bombarded with. In this chapter, we present the results of scientists reasoning about their data live in their labs (what was the cause of this anomalous finding, a mistake, a known mechanism or a totally new mechanism?) and the results of our experiment where participants were presented with new data that was either consistent with a theory or inconsistent with the theory. When the theory was plausible but the data was inconsistent with the theory participants were more likely to reject the data. An account of why this difference in findings occurs is presented.