Hypothesis Testing Preferences in Research Decision Making

Stephanie M. Anglin, Caitlin Drummond Otten, Stephen B. Broomell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Public opinion about research can affect how society gathers evidence through public support for research funding. Studies consistently show that people selectively search for and evaluate evidence in ways that are partial to their pre-existing views. The present research tested how these processes influence public support for new research on politicized topics, examining individuals' preferences for conducting studies that were otherwise identical except for the direction of the hypothesis. In two preregistered experiments, participants made choices between two hypothetical studies with opposing hypotheses on a polarized topic, first in the absence of evidence and then with conflicting evidence after researchers had collected evidence supporting their respective hypotheses. We predicted that participants would report greater belief-consistent preferences in the absence of evidence than presence of conflicting evidence. However, participants preferred to conduct the belief-consistent study in both the absence and presence of conflicting evidence. Importantly, individual differences emerged in participants' preferences and reasoning: those who reported no preference scored higher in scientific reasoning and actively open-minded thinking. These findings suggest that, on average, laypeople prioritize research with belief-consistent hypotheses, but those with stronger scientific reasoning and actively open-minded thinking were more likely to recognize the studies were scientifically equivalent and report a neutral preference.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number73029
JournalCollabra: Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 27 2023


  • confirmation bias
  • hypothesis testing
  • individual differences
  • motivated reasoning
  • scientific reasoning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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