Metacognitive failure as a feature of those holding radical beliefs

Widening polarization about political, religious, and scientific issues threatens open societies, leading to entrenchment of beliefs, reduced mutual understanding, and a pervasive negativity surrounding the very idea of consensus. Such radicalization has been linked to systematic differences in the certainty with which people adhere to particular beliefs. However, the drivers of unjustified certainty in radicals are rarely considered from the perspective of models of metacognition, and it remains unknown whether radicals show alterations in confidence bias (a tendency to publicly espouse higher confidence), metacognitive sensitivity (insight into the correctness of one’s beliefs), or both. Within two independent general population samples (n = 381 and n = 417), here we show that individuals holding radical beliefs (as measured by questionnaires about political attitudes) display a specific impairment in metacognitive sensitivity about low-level perceptual discrimination judgments.

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