Researchers found out which character trait dominates conspiracy theorists

(ORDO NEWS) — In recent years, the world has been swallowed up by a wave of distrust of scientists and their data.

If until recently scientists were considered a great authority, today thousands of people accuse them of fraud, believing in a flat Earth and the harm of 5G.

The authors of the study examined people’s attitudes towards eight issues: climate change, nuclear energy, genetically modified foods, the big bang, evolution, vaccination, homeopathic medicine and COVID-19.

They found a pattern: people’s attitude to the problem is becoming more and more distant from the scientific, but at the same time they begin to believe that they know more, although in fact actual knowledge is decreasing.

Research details

One example of the phenomenon is vaccines against COVID-19. The less a person agrees with vaccination, the more often he believes that he knows everything about it, but actual knowledge turns out to be scanty.

Opposition to the scientific picture of the world is the most important topic. For many years, popularizers [of science] believed that you just need to give people knowledge.

Unfortunately, the educational activities did not work as well as we would like. Our research shows that overconfidence hinders learning.

If people think they know a lot, they have minimal motivation to learn more. People with extreme anti-science views may first need to recognize their own relative ignorance before they are taught the specifics of established scientific knowledge, says Associate Professor Nick Light.

Light says that people who are radical are the most self-confident in their knowledge. Research indicates that this is a general pattern.

Religious or political identity is very important. For example, on climate change, as a rule, liberals adhere to the scientific position. But in the case of GMOs, scientists have not found patterns associated with political preferences.

The consequences of spreading anti-scientific views can be severe, including destruction of property, famine, and economic problems.

What to do

Education programs on their own to change attitudes may not work, the researchers say, unless people first get an accurate picture of their own knowledge of the problem’s complexity.

The challenge then is to find appropriate ways to convince people who do not accept the scientific picture of the world that they are probably not as knowledgeable as they think,
Light said.

One of the solutions is to broadcast the scientific picture of the world by influential figures. The strength of social norms, despite personal views, is of great importance.

For example, in Asia, many people wore masks not to reduce the risk of contracting and transmitting the coronavirus, but to comply with the social norm. “People tend to do what they think their community expects them to do,” Light concludes.

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