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Motivated reasoning when assessing the effects of refugee intake

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Document pages: 24 pages

Abstract: Do differences in worldview ideology hinder people from objectively interpreting the effect of immigration? In an experiment with Swedish adults (n = 1015), we investigate whether people display motivated reasoning when interpreting numerical information about the effects of refugee intake on crime rate. Our results show clear evidence of motivated reasoning along the lines of worldview ideology (i.e., whether people identify themselves primarily as nationally oriented or globally oriented). In scenarios where refugee intake was associated with higher crime rate, nationally oriented people were 18 percentage points more likely to make the correct assessment compared to globally oriented people. Likewise, in scenarios where refugee intake was associated with lower crime rate, nationally oriented people were 20 percentage points less likely to make the correct assessment compared to globally oriented people. Individuals with higher numeric ability were less likely to engage in motivated reasoning, suggesting that motivated reasoning more commonly is driven by feelings and emotional cues rather than deliberate analytical processes.

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