Epistemic beliefs as predictors of epistemic emotions: Extending a theoretical model

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The cognitive incongruity model of epistemic beliefs and emotions states that if students’ beliefs about the nature of knowledge (e.g., knowledge as simple and absolute) are incompatible with the epistemic nature of learning materials (e.g., complex and contradictory), cognitive incongruity arises. This, in turn, entails negative emotional consequences.


The epistemic nature of contradictory learning materials might be perceived differently depending on whether individuals resolve the contradictions or not. Therefore, extending the cognitive incongruity model, the present paper argues that cognitive (in)congruity also depends on how individuals act on the learning materials. We expect that only if students resolve contradictory scientific claims (e.g., by identifying moderators), more advanced epistemic beliefs (e.g., evaluativism) have positive emotional effects and vice versa.


A field-experimental study with N = 86 undergraduate psychology students was conducted.


Using a multiple-texts approach, participants were first presented controversial evidence on gender stereotyping from 18 different (fictional) studies. In contrast to similar multiple-texts approaches, all contradictions could be resolved by identifying the contextual factors that a certain type of stereotype discrimination occurs in (‘resolvable controversies’). After reading, the experimental group was asked to resolve the contradictions, whereas two control groups read the same texts, but were not required to resolve the controversies.


Results revealed that absolute beliefs positively and evaluativistic beliefs negatively predict negative emotions, but only if students were instructed to resolve the contradictions.


Our results suggest that extending the cognitive incongruity model by how students deal with controversial learning materials might be worthwhile.

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