Reasons that would explain the lack of confidence in science

If, collectively, we trust the scholars and the knowledge they produce, individually, some factors can lead us to doubt the latter. What are they and what do you do about it? Three Canadian researchers in psychology are trying to determine the answers to these two questions.

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This phenomenon is not new, but there is no shortage of examples today: denial climate change Of human origin, anti-vaccination, promotion of ineffective treatments … distrust of scientific results is very present. However, this mistrust is not always justified. Most of the time, using their personal theories or evidence from their environment, individuals reject certain scientific findings.

What are the signs that make us suspicious?

The authors of the article published in Achievement of the National Academy of Sciences Theorizing a comprehensive framework to try to understand this mistrust. They suggest that cues from our environment can make us suspect four distinct things: the source (or sender) of a thesis, the recipient (the self-challenging person), the dissertation, and what philosophers and psychologists call pattern cognitive.

The source of a dissertation is generally questioned when it is not trustworthy, expresses itself outside its field of expertise, or even appears biased or lacking in credibility. On the other hand, the recipient may suspect a scientific thesis for many reasons, including protecting their social identity (for example, being part of a radically anti-science group or being part of a community neglected by scientific work). ) or even to preserve his freedom which he thinks is threatened – we are talking about reactance effect.

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The message in itself will generally be weakened because it calls into question the beliefs of individuals at the cognitive level (what they think is right or not), at the behavioral level (if evidence is presented as a benefit or a risk) or morally (what they think is right or wrong ). Then we get to what is called Cognitive dissonance In psychology, any situation is generally unpleasant, in which we have to resolve an internal conflict between contradictory information and what we believe.

Finally, mention was made of the fact that the cognitive styles of individuals can play a role in the anti-science attitude. Cognitive Method Theory It is a theory that attempts to explain a problem: that of the diversity with which we interact with scientific evidence. For example, some may represent certain evidence as theoretical constructs (usually climate change) by looking at the problem as relatively remote and abstract, and others need to know with a very small margin of uncertainty (this is called need to close) or even low-complexity arguments (this is called The need for awareness).

What can we do against this?

Several solutions are mentioned by the authors to deal with every kind of problem. First of all, in issue Communication, social goals of scientific activity should be felt and simple language should be used. Also, it is not necessary to elude auxiliary hypotheses out of control but to explain why an obvious fact is considered as such.

On issues related to social identity, it is important to bring us closer through a higher identity to which scientific work connects us all, and to participate in including more and more marginalized minorities in scientific work. Against cognitive dissonance, the proposed solutions are more modest, focused on skills related to critical thinking Forgetting to mention the layouts to use. Finally, communicating scientific messages that are more in line with the cognitive style of the individuals we interact with appears to be of particular importance, and this path continues to appear largely neglected in communicating scientific methods and results.

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