April 17, 2024
Why some people don't trust science – and how to change their minds

Credit: NASA

During the pandemic, a third of people in Britain reported that their trust in science had increased. we recently discovered. But 7% said it had decreased. Why are there so many different reactions?

For years this was thought to be the main reason some people rejected was a simple lack of knowledge and an expressed fear of the unknown. In accordance with this, many surveys reported that attitudes toward science are more positive among people who know more about science from textbooks.

But if that were indeed the core problem, the solution would be simple: inform people about the facts. This strategy, which dominated science communication for much of the latter part of the 20th century, however, it failed on multiple levels.

In controlled experimentspeople give the attitude did not appear to change. And in Great Britain: scientific reporting on genetically modified technologies has even had an adverse effect.

The failure of the information-based strategy may be due to people discounting or avoiding information if it contradicts their beliefs – also known as confirmation bias. A second problem, however, is that some trust neither the message nor the messenger. This means that distrust in science is not necessarily just due to a lack of knowledge, but a lack of trust.

With this in mind, many research teams, including ours, decided to find out why some people trust science and others don’t. One strong predictor for people who distrusted science during the pandemic, what stood out was distrust of science in the first place.

Understanding the mistrust

Recent evidence has shown that people who reject or distrust science are not particularly well informed about it, but more importantly, they tend to be believe they understand the science.

This result has been found time and time again over the past five years in surveys of attitudes toward a plethora of scientific issues, including vaccines And Genetically modified food. It also entails, we discovered, even if no specific technology is requested. However, they may not apply to certain politicized sciences, such as climate change.

Recent research has also shown that overconfident people who hate science often do so have a wrong belief that they are the common position and therefore many others agree with them.

Other evidence suggests that some of those who reject science also gain psychological satisfaction from articulating their alternative explanations in a way cannot be refuted. That’s often the nature of conspiracy theories – whether about microchips in vaccines or COVID being caused by 5G radiation.

But the whole point of science is to investigate and test theories that can be proven false – theories that scientists call falsifiable. Conspiracy theorists, on the other hand, often reject information that is inconsistent with their preferred explanation by, as a last resort, using the motives of the messenger.

When someone who trusts the scientific method debates with someone who doesn’t, he or she is essentially using different rules. This means it is difficult to convince skeptics that they are wrong.

Finding solutions

So what can we do with this new understanding of attitudes toward science?

The messenger is just as important as the message. Our work confirms many previous studies showing that politicians, for example, are not trusted with communicating science, while university professors Are. This must be kept in mind.

The fact that some people have negative attitudes, reinforced by the misguided belief that many others agree with them, suggests a further potential strategy: tell people what the consensus position is. The advertising industry was the first to get there. Statements such as ‘eight out of ten cat owners say their pet prefers this brand of cat food’ are popular.

A recent one meta-analysis of the 43 studies that examined this strategy (these were ‘randomized control trials’ – the gold standard in scientific testing) found support for this approach to changing belief in scientific facts. Specifying the consensus position would implicitly clarify what constitutes disinformation or unsupported ideas, meaning it would also address the problem that half the people don’t know what is true because of the circulation of conflicting evidence.

An additional approach is to prepare people for the possibility of misinformation. Disinformation spreads quickly, and unfortunately, every attempt to debunk it brings the disinformation into focus. Scientists call this the ‘persistent influence effect“. Spirits are never put into bottles again. It is better to anticipate objections, or vaccinate people against the strategies used to promote disinformation. This is called “prebunking”, as opposed to debunking.

Different strategies may be needed in different contexts, but whether the science in question has been developed with a consensus among experts , or groundbreaking new research into the unknown, such as for a completely new virus, is important. Regarding the latter: explaining what we know, what we don’t know and what we are doing – and emphasizing that the results are preliminary –is a good way to go.

By emphasizing uncertainty in rapidly changing areas, we can overcome the objection that a message sender cannot be trusted if he says one thing one day and something else later.

But no strategy is likely to be 100% effective. We found that it was even talked about with a lot of discussion PCR tests for COVID30% of the audience said they had never heard of PCR.

A common dilemma for many In fact, it may appeal to those already involved in science, which may be why you’re reading this.

That said, the new science of communication suggests that it is certainly worth trying to reach those who are disengaged.

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Quote: Why Some People Don’t Trust Science – and How to Change Their Minds (2023, December 31) Retrieved December 31, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-12-people-dont-scienceand-minds. html

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