September 13, 2022

Extremists are more confident

Abstract

Metacognitive mental states are mental states about mental states. For example, I may be uncertain whether my belief is correct. In social discourse, an interlocutor’s metacognitive certainty may constitute evidence about the reliability of their testimony. For example, if a speaker is certain that their belief is correct, then we may take this as evidence in favour of their belief or its content. This paper argues that, if metacognitive certainty is genuine evidence, then it is disproportionate evidence for extreme beliefs. In support of the argument, we report findings from five studies with different participant samples, designs, and measures. These studies show that, the more extreme an agent’s belief (positive or negative), the more certain they are about it, and vice versa. This relationship might contribute to moralism, virtue signalling, and polarisation, which in turn may be epistemically and morally problematic. Therefore, we caution against taking metacognitive certainty as genuine evidence.

September 13, 2022 at 06:47PM

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