Motivated reasoning is the idea that our mental processes often cause us to filter the evidence we accept based on whether it’s consistent with what we want to believe. During these past few weeks, it has been on display in the United States on a truly grand scale. People are accepting context-free videos shared on social media over investigations performed by election officials. They’re rejecting obvious evidence of President Donald Trump’s historic unpopularity, while buying in to evidence-free conspiracies involving deceased Latin American dictators.
If the evidence for motivated reasoning is obvious, however, it’s a lot harder to figure out what’s providing the motivation. It’s not simply Republican identity, given that Trump adopted many policies that went against previous Republican orthodoxy. The frequent appearance of Confederate flags confirms some racism is involved, but that doesn’t seem to explain it all. There’s a long enough list of potential motivations to raise doubts as to whether a single one could possibly suffice.
A recent paper in PNAS, however, provides a single explanation that incorporates a lot of the potential motivations. Called “hegemonic masculinity,” it involves a world view that places males from the dominant cultural group as the focus of societal power. And survey data seems to back up the idea.