I was searching for this phantom post pointing to research on verbal reasoning scores and bias (I swear I saw it!) when I came across a fascinating a 1997 paper titled Reasoning Independently of Prior Belief and Individual Differences in Actively Open-Minded Thinking. It’s got some neat if perhaps not totally unsurprising conclusions.
First, a quick disclosure: I don’t know this research area at all. If this paper got trashed by all its peers or if its results haven’t held up over time, I wouldn’t know. I’ve looked at the authors’ faculty pages and it looks like they’ve done more recent work that I’ll dig into at some point soon.
OK so what’s the point of this research: (apologies for the screenshots; it’s non-searchable PDF)
I’ll skip how they did the experiment and go right to findings. Read for yourself if you’re interested.
The first question this raises in my mind is the extent to which this sort of reasoning style is alterable, both in the short and the long terms. To the extent that it is able to change over the long-term, this will have implications both for education and beyond. (Perhaps it’s possible to teach someone to reason outside of priors, and we do so in high school and college, but they lapse over time? Just one potential example of an implication.) In the short-term this interests me because the priming of epistemic goals could be a central feature of better media design aimed at negating bias. I’m looking forward to reading more on this topic.