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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Mechanisms of Belief Persistence in the Face of Societal Disagreement


People have a remarkable ability to remain steadfast in their beliefs in the face of large-scale disagreement. This has important consequences (e.g., societal polarization), yet its psychological underpinnings are poorly understood. In this paper, we answer foundational questions regarding belief persistence, from its prevalence to variability. Across two Experiments (N = 356, N = 354), we find that participants are aware of societal disagreement about controversial issues, yet overwhelmingly (~85%) do not question their views if asked to reflect on this disagreement. Both studies provide evidence that explanations for persistence vary across domains, with epistemic and meta-epistemic explanations among the most prevalent.

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