Posted on December 25, 2018
Academese If You Don’t Please
Here is a conclusion to a real academic paper:
In this paper, we investigated the hypothesis that cognitive sophistication facilitates identity-protective processing in political belief formation. Our findings suggested that cognitively sophisticated individuals deferred more to their prior beliefs—rather than to their political identities per se—when reasoning about information in the political domain. Furthermore, benchmarked against a Bayesian agent, we found evidence that these individuals were overall less—not more—biased in their belief updating after receipt of such information. These results highlight a somewhat more optimistic perspective on the role of cognitive sophistication in political belief formation than prior work: That cognitive sophistication may be deployed to assess and integrate new evidence in light of what the person currently believes to be true, rather than to disregard and resist identity-threatening evidence per se. From a practical perspective, however, deference to prior beliefs may be similarly problematic for the prospect of achieving convergence on true beliefs in politics. One factor determining this assessment is the quality of the information environment (e.g., on social media, claims made by politicians). Where prior beliefs about political issues are constructed on the basis of misinformation and bad evidence, deference to prior beliefs will cement false beliefs. The upshot highlights the paramount importance of safeguarding the integrity of the information environment to which people are exposed over the long-term.
Here is my version:
In this paper, we investigated the hypothesis that intelligence causes identity-protective processing in political belief formation. Our findings suggested that intelligent people deferred more to their prior beliefs than to political identities per se when reasoning about information in politics. We found evidence that these people were less biased in their belief-updating after receiving such information. These results offer a more optimistic view of intelligence’s role in political belief formation than prior work: that intelligence may be used to assess and integrate new evidence in light of one’s current beliefs rather than to resist identity-threatening evidence. Practically, however, deference to prior beliefs may also be problematic for convergence on true beliefs in politics because of the quality of the information one receives (e.g. social media, claims made by politicians). Where prior beliefs follow from bad evidence, deference to them cements false beliefs. This shows the importance of safeguarding the integrity of the information to which people are exposed.
I gave up early and skipped to the conclusion; the conclusion is a perfect example of why. Perhaps a methodological detail such as “benchmarked against a Bayesian agent” is necessary for a summary paragraph. I doubt it. Perhaps the phrase “cognitive sophistication” captures some nuance that intelligence does not. I doubt it. Perhaps the writers are non-native speakers. That certainly does not follow inevitably, though, if you have much experience reading academic prose.
I almost envy the ability to write a paragraph from which 27% of the words can be cut with no loss of meaning.