The four bases of anti-science beliefs — and what to do about them: Politics have potent effects on attitudes, researchers say

The same four factors that explain how people change their beliefs on a variety of issues can account for the recent rise in anti-science attitudes, a new review suggests.

But politics in modern society have amplified how those factors work, making them a potent force in the growing rejection of science.

In a paper published today (July 11, 2022) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, three researchers who study attitudes and persuasion explain the rise in anti-science beliefs today and what can be done about it.

“The classic work on persuasion still applies to what we’re seeing today as many people reject the science of vaccines, climate change and other subjects,” said Aviva Philipp-Muller, lead author of the paper. “But there are evidence-based strategies that can work for increasing public acceptance of science.”

Philipp-Muller, who did the work as a doctoral student in psychology at The Ohio State University, is now an assistant professor at Simon Fraser University.

Anti-science beliefs are built on four foundations, or bases, the authors said. These foundations are: thinking scientific sources lack credibility; identifying with groups that have anti-science attitudes; a scientific message that contradicts a person’s current beliefs; and a mismatch between how a message is presented and a person’s style of thinking.

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