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Schwardmann, Peter; Tripodi, Egon; Weele, Joël J. van der (1. December 2021): Self-Persuasion: Evidence from Field Experiments at International Debating Competitions. Collaborative Research Center Transregio 190, Discussion Paper No. 306


Laboratory evidence shows that when people have to argue for a given position, they persuade themselves about the position’s factual and moral superiority. Such self-persuasion limits the potential of communication to resolve conflict and reduce polarization. We test for this phenomenon in a field setting, at international debating competitions that randomly assign experienced and motivated debaters to argue one side of a topical motion. We find self-persuasion in factual beliefs and confidence in one’s position. Effect sizes are smaller than in the laboratory, but robust to a one-hour exchange of arguments and a ten-fold increase in incentives for accuracy.