Reducing False Polarization Through Perceptions of Friendship and Intelligence

  • Taylor Brown MacEwan University


People tend to believe they see the world objectively. Because of this, people perceive those who disagree with them as biased, and consider them to be more extreme than they really are. We intend to examine the effect of friendship and perceived intelligence on this process. Prejudice towards outgroup members can be reduced by enhancing knowledge, reducing anxiety, and increasing empathy for the outgroup, each of which is a critical process of getting to know someone else. Moreover, people evaluate others on two key dimensions relevant to how we perceive those we disagree with - warmth and competence. We hypothesize that people will see adversaries as less biased, but only when they perceive this other person as competent, and when they have formed a friendship. Participant dyads will be randomly assigned to either engage in an abbreviated fast friends procedure or a control procedure, and will be randomly assigned to receive information indicating the other participant to be either highly intelligent or of average intelligence. Participants will see a marijuana legalization opinion disagreeing with their own, and be led to believe it is from the other participant. They will then indicate how they perceive the other participant’s competence and estimate where they stand on the legalization of marijuana. We predict that people perceived as competent friends, will be perceived more accurately and considered less biased than non-friends or those seen as of average competence.

Discipline: Psychology Honours

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Craig Blatz