Motivated Reasoning and Disabled People


  • Gregor Wolbring University of Calgary
  • Manel Djebrouni University of Calgary


Motivated reasoning (MR) refers to the influence wishes, desires, and preferences have on individuals’ cognitive processes including assessing, constructing, and evaluating. Research on MR indicates that individuals have the tendency to accept favorable information and be dismissive or critical of threatening information. Such tendency influences the choice of newspapers and other media sources they consume and the content within these sources they read. MR is found to impact partisan affiliations and to lead to attitude polarization inequality, enhanced discrimination and injustice. Certain discussions linked to disabled people lend themselves to MR such as the origin of disablement (the body, the environment, or both) and whether the characteristic that makes one being classified as a disabled person is a deviation or a variation (see discussions around Deaf culture and neurodiversity). MR enables a polarization between the different views evident. Nearly all aspects and impacts of MR influence the living situation of disabled people. As such the purpose of our study was to investigate how the academic literature around MR engaged with disabled people. Using SCOPUS and the 70 databases of EBSCO ALL we found only two academic articles that directly covered MR in relation to disabled people. We use the issue of evidence generation in academic literature and newspapers as one example for discussing the impact of MR on disabled people. We suggest some actions that should be taken in relation to MR and disabled people.