Published on February 19, 2014
Vicious Circles of Science Communication? Ideology and Institutional Trust in Science Dr. Erik C. Nisbet Kathryn E. Cooper Kelly Garrett http://hde.osu.edu/
Politicization / Polarization of Science?
Declining Trust in Science Among Conservatives Gauchat, ASR 2012
Increased Polarization Gauchat, ASR 2012
Example: Climate Denialism (Dunlap & McCright)
My take… • Need to unpack “Psychological” from “Institutional” Denialism • Political polarization in trust of the scientific community is contextual and contingent on what science issues are most publicly /politically salient, e.g. ▫ Amount political and media discourse ▫ Political mobilization and entrepreneurship ▫ Degree of institutional denialism • Political conservatives are NOT inherently anti-science or less likely to “update” beliefs that liberals
Liberal Drivers of Polarization?
Kahan’s Critique: Testing Psychological Differences • Differences in risk perceptions, source derogation, and perceived scientific consensus between “liberals” and “conservatives” around climate change and nuclear power • Tested whether political conservatism is distinctively associated with unreflective thinking or motivated reasoning • No differences between conservatives and liberals
Kahan’s Critique: Testing Psychological Differences • In fact those who scored highest on a “Cognitive Reflection Test” were most likely to engage in motivated reasoning • Consistent with his prior work with Ellen Peters that found that those who scored highest on a combined numeracy/science literacy scale were more likely to form risk perceptions consistent with ideology/values
Scientific Denialism is not “new” Sherwood, 2011
Trust May Be Contextual – eg. Political Trust
Anti-Reflexity Thesis? (McCright et al, 2013) For each of the following types of scientists, please tell us how much you distrust or trust them to advise elected officials on important science-based policy Production Scientists • • • • • • Food scientists who invent new processed food products in their laboratories Industrial chemists who create stronger synthetic materials for use in construction Petroleum geologists who identify new locations to drill for petroleum’ Polymer chemists who create more durable plastics for use in automobiles Agricultural scientists who create new fertilizers to boost agricultural production Materials scientists who help us design higher-quality screens for our smart phones Impact Scientists • • • • • • Public health scientists who study the health impacts of new types of processed food Epidemiologists who study the health risks of distrust new synthetic chemicals used in housing construction Climate scientists who measure the amount of greenhouse gas pollution in the atmosphere Wildlife ecologists who investigate how the disposal of human-made plastics affect wildlife habitats Oceanographers who research how pollution from agriculture is degrading coral reefs Environmental scientists who study the ecological impacts of mining for minerals used in smart phones
Classical Approach To Communication & Trust
A Virtuous or Vicious Circle?
Vicious Circle of Science, Media, & Politics
Vicious Circle: Motivated Reasoning • We “work backward” from our strongly held preexisting beliefs and values to reduce affective and emotional distress – reason effused with emotion or “hot cognition” • Values and ideology act as “perceptual screens” through processes such as… ▫ ▫ ▫ ▫ Selective Exposure, Attention, Recall Counter-arguing & Reactance Source Derogation Affect
Messages, Audience Response, & Trust Biased/Motivated Processing Driven by Ideology and/or Ideology-effused beliefs + - + -
Politicization Across Science Contexts
Politicization Across Science Contexts
Two Studies • Study One ▫ Do accuracy of beliefs and institutional trust in science vary by science context & ideology? • Study Two ▫ Do affective and cognitive responses to a science communication vary by context & ideology? ▫ Do audience cognitive and affective responses to a science message influence institutional trust in science?
Study One • Survey Experiment Embedded in November 2012 Election Survey (N=1289) • Respondents were randomly assigned to 3 conditions ▫ Evolution/Climate Change ▫ Fracking / Nuclear Power ▫ Astronomy / Geology • Asked four knowledge and two policy Qs • Followed by two “trust in science” questions
Results: Predicting Accurate Beliefs (knowledge) & Trust Accuracy of Beliefs Institutional Trust .10* -.26*** Attention to Science News .18*** .23*** Evolution/Climate Change .68*** -.06* Fracking /Nuclear Power -.40*** -.22** Ideology X Evolution/CC -.84*** N.S. .16# .15* 27.6*** 17.8*** Ideology (conservative) Ideology X Fracking/Nuclear %R2 OLS Regression for education, education, race, age, gender, evangelical Christian, Bible literalism, political ideology, attention to science news, political interest; standardized co-efficients reported; # p<.10 ., * p < .05, **p< .01, ***p< .001
Belief Accuracy: Ideology X Condition 5 Liberals 4.5 Moderates Conservatives Mean Knowledge Score 4 3.7 3.5 3 3.5 3.3 3.6 3.7 3.3 3 3 3.1 2.5 2 1.5 1 Evolution/Climate Change Fracking/Nuclear Condition Space/Geology Marginal Means controlling for education, race, age, gender, evangelical Christian, Bible literalism, political ideology, attention to science news, political interest
Trust: Ideology x Condition 7 Evolution/Climate Change 6 Fracking/Nuclear Space/Geology Mean Trust 5 4.5 4.5 4.7 4.2 4.3 4.4 3.9 4 4.1 4.2 3 2 1 Liberals Moderates Ideology Conservatives Marginal Means controlling for education, race, age, gender, evangelical Christian, Bible literalism, political ideology, attention to science news, political interest
Study 2 • Qualtrics experiment N=1500 • Same three sets of science domains ▫ Evolution/Climate Change ▫ Fracking / Nuclear Power ▫ Space/ Geology • Ask participants to evaluate fake science education website for adults and college students
Method • Respondents were asked ▫ Interest and Attention Qs / Science Literacy ▫ Four science knowledge Qs about randomly assigned science topic ▫ Read a “ScienceWise” entry on same issue ▫ Then were asked Affective Response Cognitive Reactance Institutional Trust
Theoretical Model (Moderated-Mediation) Socio-Economic Ideology and T1 Belief Accuracy Negative Affect Debiasing Scientific Communication Institutional Trust in Science CognitiveReactance
T1 Belief Accuracy: Condition x Ideology 5 Liberals 4.5 Moderates Conservatives Mean Knowledge Score 4 3.6 3.5 3 3.3 3 2.9 3 3.1 2.9 2.9 2.9 2.5 2 1.5 1 Evolution/Climate Change Fracking/Nuclear Condition Space/Geology Marginal Means controlling for education, race, age, gender, evangelical Christian, Bible literalism, political ideology, attention and interest o science news, political interest and attention to political news, scientific literacy, dummies for stimulus sampling and other conditions
Results: Predicting Trust Institutional Trust Ideology (conservative) -.23*** Interest/Attention to Science News .21*** Interest/Attention to Political News -.06 T1 Belief Accuracy .13*** Evolution/Climate Change -.51*** Fracking /Nuclear Power -.27*** T1 Belief Accuracy X Evolution/CC .39*** Ideology X Fracking/Nuclear .20** %R2 20.4*** OLS Regression controlling for education, race, age, gender, evangelical Christian, biblical literalism, political ideology, attention and interest to science news, political interest and attention to political news, scientific literacy, dummy variables for stimulus sampling, social indicators, and political cue conditions; standardized co-efficients reported; # p<.10 ., * p < .05, **p< .01, ***p< .001
Trust : Condition X Ideology 7 Liberals Moderates 6 5.7 Conservatives 5.4 Mean Trust 5 4.7 4.7 4.4 4 4.6 5.2 4.5 4 3 2 1 Evolution/Climate Change Fracking/Nuclear Condition Space/Geology Marginal Means controlling for education, race, age, gender, evangelical Christian, biblical literalism, political ideology, attention and interest to science news, political interest and attention to political news, scientific literacy, dummy variables for stimulus sampling, social indicators, and political cue conditions
Trust : Condition X T1 Belief Accuracy 7 Low Knowledge 6 Moderate Knowledge Mean Knowledge Score High Knowledge 5 4.8 4.8 4.4 4 4 4.3 4.9 4.9 4.5 4 3 2 1 Evolution/Climate Change Fracking/Nuclear Condition Space/Geology Marginal Means controlling for education, race, age, gender, evangelical christian, biblical literalism, political ideology, attention and interest to science news, political interest and attention to political news, scientific literacy, dummy variables for stimulus sampling, social indicators, and political cue conditions
CC/ Evolution vs. Space/Geology T1 Knowledge Ideology (conservative) -0.10*** -0.24*** 0.13*** 0.11** Negative Affect -0.17*** -0.20 0.52*** Debiasing Scientific 0.74*** Communication .50 CognitiveReactance Total Variance Explained Negative Affect = 54.6% Counter-Reactance = 56.3% Institutional Trust = 36.4% -0.07*** Institutional Trust in Science -0.40*** Significant Indirect Effects on Trust through Negative Affect for Moderates (-0.02) and Conservatives (-0.04) T1 Belief Accuracy and Ideology both Moderate Effect on Cognitive-Reactance : Ranges from Liberals with High Accuracy with No Indirect Effect to Conservatives with High Accuracy having indirect effect of -0.29
Fracking/Nuclear vs. Space/Geology Total Variance Explained Negative Affect = 54.6% Counter-Reactance = 56.5% Institutional Trust = 36.4% Ideology (conservative) -0.13*** -0.13*** Negative Affect 0.60** Debiasing Scientific Communication -0.07*** 0.52*** Institutional Trust in Science 0.20* 1.1*** 0.73*** CognitiveReactance -0.39*** Significant Indirect Effects on Trust through Negative Affect for Liberals (-0.02) Significant Indirect Effects on Trust through Cognitive-reactance for Liberals (-0.29), Moderates (-0.21), and Conservatives (-0.13).
Summary • An ideological differentiation in knowledge across controversial science-policy contexts BUT not for topics like astronomy or geology. • Simply communicating factual statements, regardless of policy mention, about controversial science negatively influences institutional trust through affective and cognitive responses
Summary • Different Patterns of Audience Response ▫ Ideology moderated affective response, and prior knowledge moderated coginitve-reactance, in evolution/climate change condition ▫ More salient issues = high ideological differentiation in knowledge - is ideology “baked in?” ▫ Less salient controversial issues = only ideology moderates audience responses ▫ Low ideological differentiation /low salience = prior knowledge moderates response but not ideology (Bayesian?)
Vicious Circle of Trust? • How do we break the circle? No easy answers… ▫ Reduce the political /ideological polarization at the institutional level? ▫ Reduce media amplification of the vicious circle? ▫ Employ frames or narratives instead of just facts to reduce negative affective and cognitive responses? ▫ Is Bill Nye helping or hurting when debating evolution or appearing on MTP?
Moving forward • Replication ▫ Our embedded political and Facebook cues did not seem to have a main effect- no significant differences across conditions? ▫ No interaction with political interest/attention? ▫ More explicit political stimulus? ▫ Two-wave survey experiment ▫ Add additional contexts – Embryonic Stem Cells and Genetically Modified Food
Knowledge: Climate Change/Evolution ▫ Any recent climate change is caused primarily by the sun. ▫ Climate change will increase hurricanes, flooding, and drought. ▫ Carbon dioxide gas from burning fossil fuels (coal, gas, and oil) does not contribute ▫ There is a great deal of disagreement among scientists about whether or not climate change is primarily caused by human activities ▫ Humans share a relatively recent common ancestor with chimpanzees. ▫ Evolution cannot explain how life first appeared on Earth. ▫ The complexity of humans cannot be explained by evolution alone ▫ Human beings and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.
Knowledge: Fracking/Nuclear ▫ Used hydraulic fracking fluid often contaminates groundwater. ▫ Hydraulic fracking of natural gas increases cancer rates in surrounding communities. ▫ Greenhouse gas emissions in the United States have decreased substantially in recent years, in part due to the growth of hydraulic fracking of natural gas. ▫ Burning natural gas is not better for the environment than is burning oil or coal. ▫ Nuclear power plants do not emit any carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. ▫ Nuclear power plants contribute to global warming. ▫ Uranium, which is used to make nuclear fuel, is extremely scarce. ▫ People who live near nuclear power plants are typically exposed to 20% more radiation than are people who do not.
Knowledge: Space/ Geology ▫ The gravity forces of the sun and moon cause water tides in the ocean. ▫ The redness of Mars is an optical illusion caused by different wavelengths of light from the Sun ▫ The main element found in stars is neon ▫ Our solar system has nine planets. ▫ Alaska is the most earthquake prone state in the United States. ▫ Earthquakes are caused by movements in the Earth's core. ▫ Oil is formed from the organic remains of dinosaurs compressed over time by layers of rock. ▫ Oxygen and carbon are the primary elements found in the air we breathe.
Counter-Reactance ▫ Sometimes I wanted to "argue back" against what I read on the ScienceWise website. ▫ I found myself thinking of ways I disagreed with the information on the ScienceWise website. ▫ I couldn't help thinking about ways that the information on the ScienceWise website was inaccurate or misleading. I found myself looking for flaws in the way information was presented on the ScienceWise website. ▫ I felt like the ScienceWise website was trying to persuade me. ▫ The ScienceWise website was very objective. ▫ The ScienceWise website tried to pressure me to think a certain way ▫ The ScienceWise website did not try to force its opinions on me. ▫ ScienceWise website was very believeable. ▫ The ScienceWise website was not very credible. ▫ The ScienceWise website tried to manipulate me.
Affective Response • When you think about the information you just read on the ScienceWise website, how do you feel ▫ ▫ ▫ ▫ Distrustful? Angry? Annoyed? Suspicious?
Institutional Trust ▫ I have very little confidence in the scientific community. ▫ Information from the scientific community is trustworthy. ▫ I trust the scientific community to do what is right. ▫ The scientific community often does not tell the public the truth. ▫ I am suspicious of the scientific community
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