A theory of rational attitude polarization



Publishing details

Social Sciences Research Network

Authors / Editors

Benoit J-P; Dubra J


Publication Year



Numerous experiments have demonstrated the possibility of attitude polarization. For instance, Lord, Ross & Lepper (1979) partitioned subjects into two groups, according to whether or not they believed the death penalty had a deterrent effect, and presented them with a set of studies on the issue. Those who believed there was a deterrent effect became more convinced of this effect while skeptics became more convinced there was no effect; that is, the population polarized. Many scholars have concluded that attitude polarization shows that people process information in a biased manner. We argue that not only is attitude polarization consistent with an unbiased evaluation of evidence, it is to be expected in many circumstances where it arises. Moreover, our theory predicts the absence of polarization under certain conditions, as some experiments find.


Attitude polarization; Confirmation bias; Bayesian decision making


Social Sciences Research Network