The four factors of anti-science beliefs and how to use them

A new review study by Aviva Philipp-Muller and colleagues distinct four factors that are related to anti-science beliefs:

  • 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.

But these four factors can be used to change the anti-scientific attitude., check this excerpt from the press release:

One way to counteract anti-science attitudes, for example, is to convey messages that show an understanding of other viewpoints.

“Pro-science messages can acknowledge that there are valid concerns on the other side, but explain why the scientific position is preferable,” Philipp-Muller said.

For example, messages on preventing the spread of COVID-19 can acknowledge that wearing masks can be uncomfortable, but explain the discomfort is worth it to prevent the spread of disease.

Another key is to find common ground with people who reject science — even if what you have in common has nothing to do with science.

“People get their defenses up if they think they are being attacked or that you’re so different from them that you can’t be credible,” Petty said. “Find some places where you agree and work from there.”

Petty and Philipp-Muller said they hope more scientists learn about the psychology of how to communicate about their work to the public.

“It’s often not enough just to present a simple and accurate message,” Petty said.

“Psychological research can help scientists learn to present their work to different kinds of audiences, including those who might be skeptical.”

Philipp-Muller added: “There’s an opportunity to counteract the anti-science attitudes and sentiment that is out there. We have to use evidence-based strategies to increase public acceptance of science.”

Abstract of the review:

From vaccination refusal to climate change denial, antiscience views are threatening humanity. When different individuals are provided with the same piece of scientific evidence, why do some accept whereas others dismiss it? Building on various emerging data and models that have explored the psychology of being antiscience, we specify four core bases of key principles driving antiscience attitudes. These principles are grounded in decades of research on attitudes, persuasion, social influence, social identity, and information processing. They apply across diverse domains of antiscience phenomena. Specifically, antiscience attitudes are more likely to emerge when a scientific message comes from sources perceived as lacking credibility; when the recipients embrace the social membership or identity of groups with antiscience attitudes; when the scientific message itself contradicts what recipients consider true, favorable, valuable, or moral; or when there is a mismatch between the delivery of the scientific message and the epistemic style of the recipient. Politics triggers or amplifies many principles across all four bases, making it a particularly potent force in antiscience attitudes. Guided by the key principles, we describe evidence-based counteractive strategies for increasing public acceptance of science.

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