Science beliefs, political ideology, and cognitive sophistication

Jonathon McPhetres, Bence Bago et Gordon Pennycook


Generally, it is assumed that a primary source of contention surrounding science is political and, therefore, that partisan disagreement drives attitudes about various science topics. Other models focus on the roles of basic science knowledge and cognitive sophistication, arguing that these facilitate pro-science beliefs. To test these competing accounts, we identified a range of controversial issues ostensibly subject to ideological disagreement and examined the roles of political ideology, science knowledge, and cognitive sophistication. Results show there is actually very little partisan disagreement on a wide range of contentious scientific issues. We also found very little evidence of motivated reasoning: reasoning ability was instead broadly associated with pro-science beliefs. Two experiments that focused specifically on anthropogenic climate change found that increasing political motivations did not increase polarization among individuals who are higher in cognitive sophistication – in fact, the pattern was in the opposite direction, with more intuitive people instead becoming more polarized. Finally, one’s level of basic science knowledge was the most consistent predictor of people’s beliefs about science across a wide range of issues. Results suggest that educators and policymakers should focus on increasing basic science literacy and critical thinking rather than the ideologies that purportedly divide people.

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Publié dans

décembre 2021