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Framing, Motivated Reasoning, and Opinions about Emergent Technologies (WP-09-03)

James Druckman and Toby Bolsen

How do individuals form opinions about new technologies? What role does factual information play in that process? The researchers address these questions by incorporating two critical dynamics, typically ignored in extant work: competition between information and over-time processes. They present results from experiments on two technologies: carbon-nanotubes and genetically modified foods. They find that factual information is of limited utility—it does not have a greater impact than other background factors (e.g., values), it adds little power to newly provided arguments/frames (e.g., compared to arguments that lack factual information), and it is perceived in biased ways once individuals form clear initial opinions (e.g., there is motivated reasoning). Not only do their results provide insight into how individuals form opinions, over time, when presented with novel technologies, but they also bring together various distinct literatures including work on information, framing, and motivated reasoning.

James Druckman, Associate Professor of Political Science; and Fellow, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University

Toby Bolsen, Doctoral Student, Department of Political Science, Northwestern University

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