The Illusion of Political Sophistication: Creating Smarter Voters with Metacognitive Tuning



An illusion of explanatory depth (IOED) occurs when people believe they understand a concept more deeply than they actually do.  To date, researchers have identified IOEDs in mechanical and natural domains only, constraining our understanding of why they occur and suggesting that their implications are quite limited.  We suggest that IOEDs occur because people adopt an inappropriately abstract construal style when they assess how well they understand concrete concepts.  As this mechanism predicts, participants who naturally adopted concrete construal styles or were induced to adopt a concrete construal style, experienced diminished IOEDs.  Demonstrating the generality of the construal mechanism, we also relaxed the presumed boundary conditions of the effect beyond mechanical and natural domains, documenting a novel IOED in the social psychological domain of electoral voting (the so-called Illusion of Political Sophistication).  These findings suggest a novel factor that might contribute to such diverse social-cognitive shortcomings as stereotyping, egocentrism, and the planning fallacy, where people adopt abstract representations of concepts that should be represented concretely.
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Dr. G. Liberali