Risk Perception & Bias

Combatting the Politicization of Covid:

Science Curiosity as Partisan Skepticism

A spate of recent research has revealed deep partisan divisions regarding Covid attitudes and behaviors. Since the risks associated with this highly politicized coronavirus pandemic are real and consequential, investigating the individual characteristics that minimize partisan bias is useful. While past work has shown science curiosity to minimize partisan motivated reasoning on science-relevant policy domains, this research examines science curiosity’s impact on the deeply polarized pandemic as it occurs in real time. Using a survey of a nationally diverse sample, I find science curiosity consistently and significantly (of a magnitude on par or slightly less than partisanship) impacts attitudes about Covid. Importantly, it reliably weakens partisan motivated reasoning among both Democrats and Republicans. However, since science curiosity most consistently impacts polarized attitudes that are incongruent with one’s partisan identity, regardless of science-accuracy, continued examination of potential mechanisms is needed to determine the degree to which science curiosity reflects partisan skepticism.

Correcting Overconfidence in Online Privacy: Experimenting with an Educational Game.

Widespread use of the Internet means that online privacy, or how to protect one’s private information while engaging in online activity, has become a concern for many individuals. Research has investigated people’s online privacy experience, including online privacy attitudes, confidence, and behaviors. However, not much attention has been paid to how online privacy confidence could be misperceived and how educational tools can correct such overconfidence. Guided by the protection motivation theory, this research examines online privacy confidence and is composed of two studies: Study 1 reveals that online users misrepresent their online knowledge and may have overconfidence as a result. Inspired by this finding and previous research, Study 2 avoids self-reported measures of online knowledge and instead directly evaluates online privacy knowledge (using OPLIS) and its impact on online privacy confidence. Using a survey experiment, we find playing an online privacy educational game increases confidence overall and, importantly, corrects overconfidence. Despite this, we do not find any evidence that correction leads to increased information-seeking. The findings shed light on what online users themselves and organizations, such as universities, industry, and government agencies, can do to better educate individuals about online privacy while calling attention to the need for continued research regarding the underlying mechanisms and downstream behavioral consequences.

Meaningful Mistakes: When a Successful Treatment Manipulation Leads to a “Failed" Manipulation Check

Experimental methods are popular in the social sciences and manipulation checks are often considered best practice for assessing treatment receipt and robustness. Whereas instructional manipulation checks measure respondent attentiveness, factual manipulation checks (FMC) assess whether respondents received the treatment as intended.  In two nationally diverse online survey experiments, we examined the impact of partisan motivated reasoning on perceptions of sexual misconduct. This short report provides evidence of a “failed” manipulation check that successfully induced variance in the latent variable of interest (motivated partisan bias) precisely because the experimental groups differed in their reception of the treatment (evidenced among Democratic, but not Republican respondents).  

When are Stereotypes about Black Candidates Applied? An Experimental Test

Past research shows that candidates' racial identities influence the assumptions that voters draw about how they will behave in office. In a national survey experiment examining televised candidate advertisements, we find evidence that stereotypes differ both in their potency and how vulnerable they are to disconfirmation. Consistent with previous work, black candidates are broadly assumed to be more liberal than white candidates, although the effect is notably small in magnitude. Yet when it comes to more specific stereotypes—how black candidates will behave on individual issues—effects are not only much larger, but also more contingent on what information is available. We find that by providing a small bit of ideological information, black candidates can overcome the assumption that they will enact liberal policies as concerns taxation and non-racialized aspects of social welfare policy. But it is much more difficult for them to overturn the assumption that they will prioritize aid to minorities while in office.

What Does it Take to Reduce Racial Prejudice in Individual-Level Candidate Evaluations? A Formal Theoretic Perspective

Anti-black prejudice affects how some citizens evaluate black candidates. What does it take to reduce the role of prejudice in these evaluations? Using logical implications of relevant psychological phenomena, this article shows that repeated exposure to counter-stereotypical information is insufficient to reduce evaluative prejudice. Instead, citizens must associate this prejudice with adverse effects for themselves in contexts that induce them to rethink their existing racial beliefs. These findings explain important disagreements in empirical prejudice research, as only some empirical research designs supply the conditions for prejudice reduction predicted here. This study also clarifies why similarly situated citizens react so differently to counter-stereotypical information. In sum, we find that prejudice change is possible, but in a far narrower set of circumstances than many scholars claim.