Science Has Bad News For People Who Think They’re Smart
People who believe they are superior within a particular subject area tend to be less open-minded toward the same topic, according to a new study.
Lead researcher Victor Ottati of Loyola University and his colleagues conducted a study, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, in which they manipulated their student participants into thinking they were fairly knowledgeable in a field. The test subjects were asked a series of simple or tough questions and given feedback to reinforce their feelings of knowledge or ignorance. They were then asked follow-up questions to gauge their level of openness regarding the same topic.
The researchers termed the phenomenon the “Earned Dogmatism Hypothesis” and wrote in the abstract:
“[…] social norms dictate that experts are entitled to adopt a relatively dogmatic, closed-minded orientation. As a consequence, situations that engender self-perceptions of high expertise elicit a more closed-minded cognitive style.”
This hypothesis was confirmed by the six experiments conducted in the study. Participants were either asked easy questions such as “Who is the current President of the United States?” or tough questions such as “Who was Nixon’s initial Vice-President?”
After feedback was given to reinforce the subject’s knowledge or ignorance, the students’ responses to statements such as “I am open to considering other political viewpoints” were judged. The results indicate that students manipulated to feel like experts ended up being less open-minded.