Tracing the Boundaries of Motivated Reasoning: How Deliberative Minipublics Can Improve Voter Knowledge

Kristinn Már, John Gastil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


A large body of work shows that reasoning motivated by partisan cues and prior attitudes leads to unreflective decisions and disparities in empirical beliefs across groups. Surprisingly little research, however, has tested the limits of motivated reasoning. We argue that the publicly circulated findings of deliberative minipublics can spark a more reflective motivation in voters when these bodies provide policy-relevant factual information. To test that proposition, we conducted a survey experiment using information generated by one such minipublic during an election. Results showed that exposure to the minipublic's findings improved the accuracy of voters' empirical beliefs regarding a ballot proposition on the regulation of genetically modified seeds. This treatment effect transcended voters' partisan identities and prior environmental attitudes. In some instances, the respondents showing the greatest knowledge gains were those who a directional motivated-reasoning account would have expected to resist the treatment most effectively, owing to party identity or prior attitudes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-127
Number of pages21
JournalPolitical Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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