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Why You’re Not As Politically Astute As You Think You Are

Surrounding yourself with, and adhering closely to, those who share your opinions leads to difficulty in coherently analyzing today's political problems. A new study says this is true regardless of your network's perceived levels of political sophistication.

Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn

What’s the Latest Development?

A study recently published in the journal Political Psychology confirms something that most people already know on some level: The kinds of social networks we create affects our ability to express ourselves clearly and rationally on political issues. The study was conducted on 111 undergraduates, who were asked to describe the friends with whom they discuss politics on a regular basis and then to provide commentary on various issues.

What’s the Big Idea?

Researchers Elif Erisen and Cengiz Erisen write that the more the person identifies and coheres with their particular social network, the lower the quality of their political thinking. “Conversely, those who have occasional contact with, and loose attachment to, people with whom they talk about politics have richer and more causal thinking” on the issues. Interestingly, the researchers note this low-quality reasoning happens “regardless of the network’s level of political sophistication, or the existence of a variety of political views in the network.” The data suggests that no matter how politically astute you think you are, your critical abilities suffer if you don’t actively engage with someone you don’t know who has a different viewpoint. 

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