Debiasing Motivated Reasoning: Unpacking Mechanisms

Last registered on December 20, 2023


Trial Information

General Information

Debiasing Motivated Reasoning: Unpacking Mechanisms
Initial registration date
December 11, 2023

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
December 20, 2023, 9:42 AM EST

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.


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Primary Investigator


Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
UCLA Anderson
PI Affiliation

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
Motivated reasoning, the tendency to selectively interpret information in ways that support beliefs people would rather hold, is a pervasive phenomenon that has been shown to contribute to belief biases, political polarization and excessive trust in ``fake news.'' In this project, we will experimentally study whether feedback interventions can induce people to become less susceptible to motivated reasoning and improve the accuracy of how they update beliefs. In particular, we test the effects of giving people two forms of feedback that increase their awareness when they incorrectly assess the truthfulness of a piece of news. Treatment A tells them about the costs of their inaccurate assessment, and Treatment B has people introspect about whether the bias of motivated reasoning impacted their assessment. We will test whether these interventions lead people to change how they process information about news on subsequent political issues. We will analyze whether they induce people to become less biased, more accurate, and less polarized about how they process future pieces of news.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Ngangoue, Kathleen, Vanessa Sticher and Michael Thaler. 2023. "Debiasing Motivated Reasoning: Unpacking Mechanisms." AEA RCT Registry. December 20.
Experimental Details


Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
(See attached analysis plan)
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
(See attached analysis plan)
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Randomization for all treatments done by computer.
Randomization Unit
Pro-Party / Anti-Party news randomized at question level.
Control / treatments randomized at individual level.
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
Target: 1800 participants
Sample size: planned number of observations
Approximately 20,000 political news assessments
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Target: 600 participants control, 600 participants in treatment A, 600 participants in treatment B
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
Supporting Documents and Materials

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Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
UCL Research Ethics Committee
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
IRB Name
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Committee on the Use of Humans as Experimental Subjects
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
IRB Name
UCLA Office of the Human Research Protection Program
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan

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