I am wondering if anyone knows of any psychological research on this kind of phenomenon, which I think relates to cognitive dissonance. I suspect there must be something out there, even something that directly relates to teaching philosophy or other "controversial issues," but I have yet to find it. But a deeper understanding of this phenomena would surely be helpful in addressing it and helping students develop the cognitive skills and attitudes (and virtues?) that philosophy can teach.
Here's a few things from philosophy that I've found relevant here. First, Richard Feldman on "argument stoppers."
Second, there are a number of articles in Teaching Philosophy on a phenomena called "student relativism," starting with this excellent article by Stephen Satris:
Teaching-Philosophy. S 86; 9: 193-205
IN THIS PAPER I OFFER AN ANALYSIS OF, AND SUGGEST SOME METHODS FOR DEALING WITH, A QUITE PARTICULAR AND PECULIAR PROBLEM IN TEACHING PHILOSOPHY. IT IS, PERHAPS, NOT A PROBLEM ESSENTIAL TO THE DISCIPLINE OR TO ITS TEACHING, BUT IT IS NEVERTHELESS ONE OF THE MOST SERIOUS, PERVASIVE, AND FRUSTRATING PROBLEMS CONFRONTING MOST PHILOSOPHY TEACHERS TODAY. I SPEAK OF THE PROBLEM OF STUDENT RELATIVISM--OR, SR FOR SHORT.
METAPHYSICS-; PROFESSOR-; RELATIVISM-; STUDENT-; TEACHING-