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Your Surroundings Mirror Your Beliefs
Date:7/1/2009

People find safety in those who think the same way, research contends

WEDNESDAY, July 1 (HealthDay News) -- Whatever you believe, new research suggests that you're likely to surround yourself with others who feel the same way, whether they be friends or talking heads on television.

"Never having any contact with the other side is a very safe way of protecting your beliefs. It's a little bit primitive, but successful," said study co-author Dolores Albarracin, a psychology professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Albarracin and colleagues from the University of Florida, Northwestern University and Ohio University reviewed 91 previous studies on how people deal with information that confirms or contradicts their opinions. Their analysis appears in the July issue of the journal Psychological Bulletin.

The new study confirmed that people have "a moderate preference for information that confirms their points of view. It is sometimes attenuated, but for the most part it tends to be there," Albarracin said.

Overall, the studies asked people whether they wanted to view or read information that either upheld their point of view or opposed it. The researchers found that people were twice as likely to seek out supporting material than contradictory material. And they were especially likely to seek out confirming opinions on such topics as religion, politics or ethics, Albarracin said.

Researchers have debated this topic for some time, trying to figure out exactly why people don't tend to be exposed to contradicting points of view, Albarracin noted.

"One argument is that it's not that you are purposefully trying to seek confirmation: if you are a Democrat, you're more likely to be surrounded by Democratic information," she said. "The other point of view is that it is by choice. It makes you feel a lot better to confirm what you already believe than risk feeling like a
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