Hedonism as a motive for information search: biased information-seeking leads to biased beliefs

Matthew Jiwa, Patrick S. Cooper, Trevor T.J. Chong, Stefan Bode

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Confirmation bias in information-search contributes to the formation of polarized echo-chambers of beliefs. However, the role of valence on information source selection remains poorly understood. In Experiment 1, participants won financial rewards depending on the outcomes of a set of lotteries. They were not shown these outcomes, but instead could choose to view a prediction of each lottery outcome made by one of two sources. Before choosing their favoured source, participants were first shown a series of example predictions made by each. The sources systematically varied in the accuracy and positivity (i.e., how often they predicted a win) of their predictions. Hierarchical Bayesian modeling indicated that both source accuracy and positivity impacted participants’ choices. Importantly, those that viewed more positively-biased information believed that they had won more often and had higher confidence in those beliefs. In Experiment 2, we directly assessed the effect of positivity on the perceived credibility of a source. In each trial, participants watched a single source making a series of predictions of lottery outcomes and rated the strength of their beliefs in each source. Interestingly, positively-biased sources were not seen as more credible. Together, these findings suggest that positively-biased information is sought partly due to the desirable emotional state it induces rather than having enhanced perceived credibility. Information sought on this basis nevertheless produced consequential biased beliefs about the world-state, highlighting a potentially key role for hedonic preferences in information selection and subsequent belief formation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2086
Number of pages13
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

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