The Dogmatic Defense

The August Journal of Research in Personality says people with worse memory are more dogmatic:

Two hundred college students completed a working memory span test to measure verbal working memory, and Rokeach’s Dogmatism Scale (1956). … A negative correlation was found between dogmatism scores and working memory scores (p = .002) …. Error analysis … [indicates] capacity limits in verbal working memory, and not processing deficits, were primarily responsible for poor working memory scores. Dogmatism was not found to be related to gender, age, ethnicity, religious affiliation, academic major, or level of education.

BPS-Digest elaborates:

The students listened to several sentences that had a word missing at the end, then after hearing all the sentences they had to propose words to fill in the gaps, in the right order.  They also completed a measure of dogmatism which gauged their agreement with statements like: "When it comes to differences in opinion in religion, we must be careful not to compromise with those who believe differently than the way we do."

Perhaps dogmatism is a defensive strategy, so you don’t have to admit that you can’t follow elaborate arguments by fast talkers.  Alas, smart people will take this as reassurance that they need worry less about their own dogmatism.  Hat tip to Brian Schwartz.

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  • http://geekcounterpoint.net Lorne Ipsum

    Unfortunately the paper is a paid-access-only sort of thing, but doesn’t it only establish correlation (vs. causation)?

    IMHO, the big question is whether (as the wording of things suggests) poor memory leads to dogmatism, or on the other hand dogmatism leads to poor memory (as it essentially encourages mental laziness). Or maybe there’s an underlying cognitive problem that leads to both?

  • Floccina

    In defense of dogmatism, could not dogmatism also be call principle. We do not have time to examine every detail of things and often the details are not available. So we rely on dogmatism or principle. An example would be to allow freedom on principle because we cannot be sure that we know all consequences of a proposed policy, socializing health care for example. Principle would be called wisdom and is often embodied in religious practice and in religious and non- religious proverbs.

  • Matthew C.

    Alas, smart people will take this as reassurance that they need worry less about their own dogmatism.

    I would be very interested to read the questions on Rokeach’s Dogmatism Scale (1956). I have a funny feeling that the questions are all centered on religious and perhaps cultural dogmatism and not dogmatism in other areas like epistimological philosophy, etc. I suspect the more intelligent students are simply better at selecting the “right” answers for the dominant academic milieu.

    Perhaps I’ve just been exposed to far too many dogmatic 140+ IQ individuals. . . I suspect that you are correct and this finding will just give them more reason to remain smug in their self-assurance of correctness of their worldviews and less inclined to question their core beliefs.me.

  • th

    “When it comes to differences in opinion in religion, we must be careful not to compromise with those who believe differently than the way we do.”

    Uh… so if I agree with that statement then it means I’m dogmatic?

    It seems to me that resistance to compromise is not an indication of dogmatism. Many subjects (especially scientific hypotheses) can be open to non-dogmatic debate but not to compromise. Is religion such a subject? I don’t see any reason a person should compromise their views just because someone else believes differently. One can be open to debate without being open to compromise.