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Science Says Know-It-All-people Only Exaggerate Their 'Superior' Political Knowledge

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A study concludes that most people insistent on their political beliefs are merely exaggerating. Worse, they could just be exhibiting symptoms of superiority complex.

Researchers at the University of Michigan say that friends, relatives, or coworkers who are commonly described as know-it-all are vulnerable to exaggeration of facts. They do this to make themselves appear superior from others. Specifically, this tendency becomes apparent when they insist on their political beliefs. They can also be persistent in pushing for their environmental philosophies, religion, and relationship advice. They are also relenting even on mundane topics such as etiquette and other preferences, which can otherwise rely on personal taste.

Worst, these know-it-all people show the tendency of shunning objective criticism and relevant political facts when it questioned their beliefs, the study says. They are adamant in claiming that their beliefs are without bias all the more when they are corrected. They go to the extent of seeking inaccurate information just to satisfy their sense of superiority.

What these know-it-alls fail to realize is that they can actually be the most politically conversant people if only they are willing to welcome fairness. They also fail to improve their knowledge with this kind of attitude.

"We thought that if belief-superior people showed a tendency to seek out a balanced set of information, they might be able to claim that they arrived at their belief superiority through reasoned, critical thinking about both sides of the issue," explains Michael Hall, a psychology graduate student and the study's lead author.

Consequently, the real politically intelligent people are humble, Hall says. These people can even underestimate their knowledge, whereas the know-it-all thinks they knew a lot more than they actually did.

The Study On Superiority Complex

In conducting the study, the participants were asked to undergo activities that will answer two questions.

One is that "Do people who think that their beliefs are superior have more knowledge about the issues they feel superior about?"

To answer this question, researchers asked the participants to elaborate their beliefs on several political issues. Specifically, the researchers asked them how much they knew about these issues through a series of quizzes.

Their answers revealed that people who showed high belief superiority merely assumed their knowledge of the political issues. Their perception of the political topics also reflected that they only hyped the facts they knew.

The second question is "Do belief-superior people use superior strategies when seeking out new knowledge?"

Researchers presented the participants with news articles on a political topic and asked them to select their preferred sources. The know-it-all chooses articles that supported their point of views and avoided the ones that challenged them. Interestingly, they are very much aware that they are being biased with their selections.

Kaitlin Raimi, assistant professor of public policy and the study's coauthor adds that people in general feel validated when their beliefs are confirmed.

The full finding will be published in the May issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

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