Publication Date

Fall 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Gregory J. Feist


Climate Change, Dogmatism, Motivated Reasoning, Reasoning

Subject Areas



The purpose of this study is to examine ideological, psychological, and demographic predictors of motivated reasoning. Three-hundred and seventy-seven participants from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk system completed written responses critically evaluating strengths and weaknesses in a vignette on the topic of anthropogenic climate change. The vignette has two fictional scientists present prototypical arguments for and against anthropogenic climate change that are constructed with equally flawed and conflicting reasoning from both view points. Written responses were coded by a team of trained and reliability assessed qualitative raters. Motivated reasoning is operationalized by providing supporting evidence for the congruent belief and counter evidence against the incongruent belief. We found higher levels of dogmatism and lower levels of neuroticism in those engaging in motivated reasoning. Participants who supported anthropogenic climate change had equal levels of need for cognition, adoption of scientific attitudes, and openness to experience to participants who did not accept anthropogenic climate change, but were less conservative and more neurotic. Participant reasoning was predominately assessed as encompassing valid statements, supporting the notion that reasoning about beliefs and corresponding evidence creates directional reasoning and not necessarily invalid reasoning.