Hedonism in information search – biased information-seeking leads to biased beliefs
Selective bias in information-search contributes to the formation of polarized echo-chambers of beliefs. However, the cognitive mechanisms underlying this bias remain poorly understood. In this study, we aimed to isolate the role of affective content on information source selection. 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 favored 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. Choice behavior was analyzed using a hierarchical Bayesian modeling approach. Results indicated that both source accuracy and positivity impacted participants’ choices. Importantly, those seeking 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 provided ratings corresponding to the strength of their beliefs in each source. Results suggested that 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 enhanced perception of credibility. Information sought on this basis nevertheless produced consequential biased beliefs about the world-state.