Skip to content
Subscriber Only

The Less We Know, the Surer We Are, Study Finds

The researchers acknowledge a “very small” effect on participants’ opinions about raising the retirement age for Social Security
The researchers acknowledge a “very small” effect on participants’ opinions about raising the retirement age for Social SecurityPhotograph by Peathegee Inc/Gallery Stock

Here’s a study that rings true: People tend to hold more extreme positions on complex policies when they don’t know very much about them, according to a research article in the academic journal Psychological Science. Having people attempt to explain how the policies work is enough to reduce their sense of certainty, as well as the extremity of their political positions.

Research subjects stated their positions on six political policies on a scale from strongly against to strongly in favor, and then rated their understanding of the policies. After that they were asked to provide a detailed explanation of two of the policies. “Attempting to explain policies made people feel uncertain about them, which in turn made them express more moderate views,” the researchers concluded.