These 4 Factors Can Explain Why So Many People Are Rejecting Science

Science mistrust is a serious issue. It is directly causing deaths in our existing environment. The majority of the false information we see is deliberate and well-planned, and what's more, according to study, lies frequently spread more quickly online than the truth.

Therefore, psychologist Aviva Philipp-Muller, who is currently a professor at Simon Fraser University, and colleagues combed through the scientific literature on persuasion and communication in an effort to create a current and comprehensive review of how to approach this challenging issue.

One of the biggest misconceptions in communicating science is that giving people information would automatically cause them to act logically and in accordance with it. The worldwide pandemic and the climate catastrophe have provided innumerable instances of how this frequently fails. This is known as the information deficit model, and it is the kind of communication we are adopting here.

According to Richard Petty, a psychologist at Ohio State University, "vaccinations used to be a conventional item that everyone accepted." However, certain recent advancements have made it simpler to convince individuals to disagree with the scientific consensus on vaccines and other problems.

Although many of us may find it difficult to accept, there are many good reasons for individuals to be skeptical.

To start, industries are undermining public confidence in science by misappropriating scientific qualifications and making assertions that sound "sciency" in order to boost their influence and increase profits; pharmaceutical corporations have undoubtedly given us many reasons not to believe them. Additionally, science doesn't always get things right, and significant portions of the media are fueling anti-science attitudes by demonizing "elitist" specialists.

People's trust in scientists is declining as a result of all this uncertainty, contention, and information overload, and those of us who are frequently in charge of informing the public about scientific developments, such as the media and public officials, are performing even worse on the trust scales.

One of the four primary obstacles to embracing science identified by Philipp-Muller and colleagues in their review is this mistrust of the information's source.

The other major impediments the team identified were when material contradicts a person's fundamental values, challenges the group they identify with, or doesn't fit their preferred learning method.

According to Petty, "What all four of these bases illustrate is what occurs when scientific knowledge contradicts with what individuals already believe or their way of thinking."

1. Mistrust of the source of the information

One of the main reasons individuals don't accept scientific knowledge, as was noted above, is a lack of confidence in the information source.

In addition to confusing those who are unfamiliar with the scientific method, legitimate and vigorous scientific discussion can also undermine trust when it enters the public sphere.

The researchers advise stressing the collaborative character of science and the larger, prosocial aims of research as a means of overcoming these trust challenges. The team adds that really addressing other people's viewpoints and any shortcomings in your own, as opposed to sweeping them under the rug, might help build trust.

Pro-science messaging may acknowledge that the other side has legitimate concerns while also outlining why the scientific viewpoint is superior, according to Philipp-Muller.

tribal fidelity 2.

No matter how much schooling we have, we are particularly susceptible to occasionally perceiving individuals we connect with as being a part of our own cultural group because of the way our mind is built as an inherently social creature. Cultural cognition is the name given to this phenomena.

According to Philipp-Muller and colleagues, research on cultural cognition has "highlighted how people bend scientific discoveries to conform with values that important to their cultural identities."

Social media and political division have only made things worse. For instance, leftists are more inclined to trust scientists who appear on CNN, while conservatives are more likely to accept those who appear on Fox News.

According to Philipp-Muller, "Social media sites like Facebook offer personalized news feeds that imply conservatives and liberals may acquire significantly divergent information."

To overcome this, we must work with groups who reject science, especially those who have historically been disadvantaged by it, and identify common ground while producing information tailored to certain target audiences.

3. Information that contradicts personal convictions

Information that questions our morality or religious beliefs causes internal tensions that might result in logical fallacies and cognitive biases like cognitive dissonance.

The researchers stated in its study that "scientific knowledge can be hard to stomach" and that "many people would sooner reject the findings than embrace information that implies they could have been incorrect." Scientists should be prepared to sympathize since this predisposition is quite understandable.

Therefore, one of the most effective countermeasures is to demonstrate that you comprehend the other person's perspective.

People will get defensive if they believe they are being attacked or that you are too dissimilar to them to be taken seriously, according to Petty. Find some points of agreement, and go from there.

Contrary to popular opinion, improving a person's broad scientific literacy might actually work against them since it gives them the ability to better support their previous ideas. Instead, it is advocated to improve media literacy and scientific reasoning abilities, pre-debunk or immunize individuals against disinformation, frame information in accordance with what important to your audience, and use relatable personal experiences.

4. The correct learning style is not being used to provide the information

The most basic of the four bases, this issue is simply a mismatch between the information's presentation and the receiver's preferred style. This includes preferences for abstract knowledge over actual information, as well as an emphasis on promotion or prevention.

Here, Philipp-Muller and colleagues recommend utilizing some of the same strategies that opponents of science have been doing. Researchers could use metadata, for instance, to better target communications based on people's profiles according to their online behaviors, much way the technology and advertising industries do.

The good news is that while trust in scientists has declined, it is still rather high when compared to other information authorities, which is encouraging given the present level of public acceptance of research.

Despite the fact that we humans like to think of ourselves as rational beings who are equally influenced by our social relationships, emotions, and instincts as we are by our intellect, we are actually messy animals with messy minds. All of us who are active in science—as practitioners or supporters—must comprehend and take this into consideration.

In PNAS, the review was released.