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How do people deal with opposing opinions?

WorkgroupPerception and Action Lab
FundingIWM budget resources
Project description

It is generally believed that humans prefer information that confirms their attitudes and avoid information that represents opposing views. Striving for confirmation and congeniality are also held responsible for a number of toxic phenomena on the Internet, such as the emergence of echo chambers and filter bubbles, the polarization of society, or the dissemination of misinformation. The present project investigates how people deal with opposing opinions – are they really ignored?

The studies of this project could show that humans prefer confirmatory information when asked to indicate which pieces of information they would like to read. However, this trend reverses when people are asked which pieces of information (e.g., from online discussion forums) they would like to reply to – in fact, most people engage with comments that run counter to their own view. An automated analysis of reply patterns from the comment sections of a large German news platforms confirmed this preference for uncongenial information. Experiments from this project have investigated how variables like the discussion climate, a person’s knowledge and confidence, or personality characteristics affect the tendency to reply to opposing opinions. Moreover, the studies provided first evidence that replying to opposing views (just like reading confirmatory information) can lead to polarization. In addition, an external cooperation investigates reply behavior in conjunction with the development of a psychological test that measures individual abilities to discern manipulative messages on social media.

The project represents a novel view on how people use the Internet. According to this view, humans are not as conflict-averse as commonly believed. This has practical consequences on how to tackle societal problems such as belief polarization.


Buder, J., Rabl, L., Feiks, M., Badermann, M., & Zurstiege, G. (2021). Does negatively toned language use on social media lead to attitude polarization? Computers in Human Behavior, 116, Article 106663.

Buttliere, B., & Buder, J. (2017). Reading more vs. writing back: Situation affordances drive reactions to conflicting information on the Internet. Computers in Human Behavior, 74, 330-336. request document

Buder, J., Schwind, C., Rudat, A., & Bodemer, D. (2015). Selective reading of large online forum discussions: The impact of rating visualizations on navigation and learning. Computers in Human Behavior, 44, 191-201.


PD Dr. Jürgen Buder PD Dr. Jürgen Buder
Tel.: +49 7071 979-326

Project team

Gerrit Anders