Science denial not limited to political right

Science denial not limited to political right
Credit: University of Illinois at Chicago

In the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, many claims have been made that science denial, particularly as it relates to climate change, is primarily a problem of the political right.

But what happens when scientific conclusions challenge liberals' attitudes on , such as gun control, nuclear power or immigration?

A new study from at the University of Illinois at Chicago and published online in Social Psychological and Personality Science suggests people of all political backgrounds can be motivated to participate in science denial.

UIC researchers Anthony Washburn, a graduate student in psychology, and Linda Skitka, professor of psychology, had participants indicate their political orientation, evaluate fabricated scientific results, and, based on the data, decide what the studies concluded.

Once they were informed of the correct interpretations of the data, participants were then asked to rate how much they agreed with, found knowledgeable, and trusted the researchers' correct interpretation.

"Not only were both sides equally likely to seek out attitude confirming scientific conclusions, both were also willing to work harder and longer when doing so got them to a conclusion that fit with their existing attitudes," says Washburn, the lead author of the study. "And when the correct interpretation of the results did not confirm participants' attitudes, they were more likely to view the researchers involved with the study as less trustworthy, less knowledgeable, and disagreed with their conclusions more."

These effects were constant no matter what issue was under consideration, which included six social issues—immigration, , climate change, , and same sex marriage—and one control issue—skin rash treatment.

Rather than strictly a conservative phenomenon, science denial may be a result of a more basic desire of people wanting to see the world in ways that fit with their personal preferences, political or otherwise, according to the researchers.

The results also shed light on science denial in public discourse, Skitka added.

"Before assuming that one group of people or another are anti-science because they disagree with one scientific , we should make an effort to consider different motivations that are likely at play, which might have nothing to do with per se," she said.

Explore further

Political left, right similarly motivated to avoid rival views

More information: Anthony N. Washburn et al. Science Denial Across the Political Divide, Social Psychological and Personality Science (2017). DOI: 10.1177/1948550617731500
Citation: Science denial not limited to political right (2017, September 19) retrieved 21 August 2019 from
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Sep 19, 2017
Um, liberals are also in "science denial" about anthropogenic global warming in addition to gun control and nuclear power. It seems to be an article of faith that "conservatives" have it all wrong about global warming, but in fact there is no conclusive evidence that links global warming, glacier melt, sea level rise, and the litany of associated horrors like floods, droughts (how can you have it both ways?), hurricanes and typhoons to human CO2 emissions. There is only theory that CO2 impedes or blocks certain infrared frequencies from reflecting back to space and (inaccurate) computer models built on that premise, but there are no actual measurements that quantify with any degree of precision that isn't overwhelmed by the natural variability of Earth's non-linear, chaotic climate system. In other words, no proof. Without proof, you haven't got science. Humans may be affecting climate, but we can't measure it. But what we can reliably and successfully do is adapt.

Sep 19, 2017
OK, sackbag-

You list three issues that "Liberals" are in denial regarding.

First is AGW. Typically, this is an issue that "Conservatives" are in denial regarding, yet here you contradict that understanding.

Are you that stupid?

Rhetorical question.

Second, you raise the issues of gun control and nuclear power as denied by "Liberals", yet you don't elaborate further or --as with the issue of AGW-- provide and citations in support of this assertion.

Typical bufoonery courtesy of one of Porg's most ineffectual trolls.

That being said, this is another example of very poor writing. The article is unclear and offers no support for any of its murky "conclusions", much like sackbag's comment.

Sep 19, 2017
Sage (the publisher) says this journal uses abbreviated peer review. This publisher has been cited as a "predatory publisher" in open access journals, and failed a test using a fabricated paper; they published it and were suspended by the OASPA and suspended for six months. The author is a "PhD student." The controls on the experiment are not enumerated in the article, and neither are the methods, and the paper is not open access so neither can be checked for rigor. The author is from a school that is known to be a hotbed of conservatism.

I am extremely skeptical. I think this is clickbait.

Sep 19, 2017
Back in the 50's, as far back as I can remember, before computers, the Net and even common photocopiers, many popular memes were transmitted by cute little printed signs that one could buy at gift and souvenir shops.

One of the most-common was "My mind is made up - don't confuse me with the facts."

Some things just don't change. Once people's mental concrete has set, most would rather die than change, and many get their wish.

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