Motivated Reasoning is a Cognitive bias - we tend to accept/believe more easily and with less scrutiny things we think are correct. If we encounter an idea that we think is wrong, we subject it to more scrutiny - it has a higher bar to clear for us to accept it.
Eg. Say we are an Atheist. If we see a article that says Atheist are found to be more rational, we accept it easily. But when we see an article that says Religious people have less mental health issues, we require multiple studies before accepting it.
A sutler form of this is holding opposing views to a higher standard of proof(sample size of that study is too low, the author of that study is not qualified enough), while being lenient towards confirming viewpoints.
The reason for this is people tend to avoid unflattering/troubling information that contradicts their self image - this behavior helps in maintaining a positive self image. When encountering formation that goes against their currently held believes, they have a Cognitive Dissonance which is uncomfortable.
This is very close to Confirmation Bias.
The opposite is a scout mindset.
Counteract Motivated Reasoning
- Save critical thinking for things that matter - prioritize the investment in time and effort for decisions with important consequences.
- Take time to reflect on your knowledge and its limits.
- Think of four compelling points for and against a given position.
- Be attentive to situations in which you’re motivated to prove yourself right, which can render you vulnerable to reasoning errors.
- Avoid jumping to conclusions based on what you think others know, because assumptions are often baseless.