Experts may be less openminded than they think: the earned dogmatism effect

One could think we live in a period where experts and expertise are gone, and I do think that expertise is important, still being an expert doesn’t make you immune for a couple of things:

And we can also add the earned dogmatism effect to this list. What’s that, you ask?

Individuals induced to believe they are experts tend to over-estimate the accuracy of their beliefs (Arkes et al., 1987 and Trafimow and Sniezek, 1994). The Earned Dogmatism Hypothesis proposes that this finding arises, in part, because social norms entitle experts to adopt a more dogmatic cognitive orientation. Because experts have already given extensive thought to issues within a domain, they have “earned” the privilege of harboring more dogmatic opinions and beliefs. In contrast, social norms discourage individuals from being dogmatic when they possess a limited amount of knowledge. Expression of dogmatic convictions can be viewed as warranted, justified, or appropriate when the communicator possesses high expertise. This is less likely to be true when the communicator knows little about a topic. Social norms dictate that novices should adopt a more open-minded orientation. (source: Ottati et al, 2015)

This study – where I’ve taken the quote from – has found – based on 6 experiments – that social norms entitle experts to be more closed-minded or dogmatic and that self-perception of high expertise increases closed-mindedness:

Social norms entitle experts to be more dogmatic, conditions that promote self-perceptions of high expertise should increase dogmatic processing. This Earned Dogmatism Effect was observed in five experiments. It emerged when using success (high expertise) and failure (low expertise) manipulations of test performance both within and outside the political domain. It also emerged when comparing participants who occupy a “high expertise social role” to participants in a control condition, even under conditions that control for alternative mediating mechanisms (e.g., mood, feelings of power). Self-perceptions of expertise increased Normative Entitlement to be closed-minded, which in turn, decreased open-minded cognition. Importantly, (2 experiments) demonstrated that this Earned Dogmatism Effect emerges when self-perceptions of expertise vary within individuals who occupy different roles in different situations.

Still I’m very glad that a lot of experts that talked on ResearchED15 2 weeks ago often said ‘I don’t know’…

Abstract of the paper:

Although cultural values generally prescribe open-mindedness, open-minded cognition systematically varies across individuals and situations. According to the Earned Dogmatism Hypothesis, social norms dictate that experts are entitled to adopt a relatively dogmatic, closed-minded orientation. As a consequence, situations that engender self-perceptions of high expertise elicit a more closed-minded cognitive style. These predictions are confirmed in six experiments.


8 thoughts on “Experts may be less openminded than they think: the earned dogmatism effect

  1. Being confident is best for learning. Arrogance and confidence are frequently confused. While I’ve heard some say that there is a thin line between the two there is actually a gulf. Of note, Confidence is more aligned with humility and thus places one in a mindset to be opened and receptive to learning and growing.

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