Political Extremism and the Illusion of Explanatory Depth


  • Talia Maria Tissera McMaster University


People with extreme political ideologies seem especially susceptible to the illusion of explanatory depth (IOED). IOED occurs when we feel overconfident about our understanding of complex topics, such as politics. The overconfidence goes hand in hand with oversimplification of the topic. People with extreme political beliefs feel more confident in their politics than people with moderate beliefs, whether or not they have more accurate knowledge. Studies show that oversimplifying extreme politics leads people to make inaccurate conclusions. However, breaking the illusion is simple: ask people to explain the mechanisms behind their beliefs. Once extremists struggle to explain every step in a political plan, they realize the underdeveloped, simplistic nature of their original ideas. 





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