Tuesday , January 25 2022

People with extreme anti-sciences know the least, but think they know the most: research


Recently, researchers asked more than 2,000 Americans and European adults of their thoughts about genetically modified food.

They also asked them how much they thought they understood GM food, and a series of 15 real questions to test how much they actually knew about genetics and science in general.

The researchers were interested in studying the perverse human phenomenon. People tend to be loyal judges about how much they know.

In four studies conducted in three countries – the USA, France and Germany – researchers found that extreme opponents of genetically modified food know the least about this topic, but think they know the most.

The authors stated otherwise: "The fewer people know, as opposed to scientific consensus."

"Scientific communicators have made concerted efforts to educate the public, paying attention to their attitudes towards experts," they write in Nature Human Behavior.

But people with an inflated sense of what they really know – and most often need education – are also the ones most likely to be open to new information.

"This suggests that the prerequisite for changing people's views through education can make them first assess the gaps in their knowledge," writes the authors.

The problem is similar to the Dunning-Kruger effect: the less competent a person is, the more intelligent they think.

"Not only do these people come to the wrong conclusions and make the wrong choices," David Dunning and J.

Or, as the English actor and comedian John Cleese said: “If you are very, very stupid, how can you understand that you are very, very stupid? You need to be reasonably intelligent to understand how stupid you are. ”

Extreme views often come along with not evaluating the complexity of the topic – "don't understand how much you need to know," said Philip Fernbach, a leading author of new research and professor marketing at the University of Colorado Boulder. "People who don't know very much think they know a lot, and that is the basis for their extreme views."

His team discoveries took place at different levels of education and for people on both sides of the political passage.

Genetically modified foods are an integral part, said Fernbach. "People on the right and left are hate GMOs," although most scientists believe they are as safe for human consumption as traditionally grown.

"Genetic engineering is one of the most important technologies that really change the world in a dramatic way, and has the potential to bring enormous benefits to people," said Fernbach. "And yet there is a very strong opposition."

In one of these studies, 91% of the 1,000 Americans surveyed reported some resistance to GM food.

The bigger the extreme opposition, Fernbach and his co-authors, the less people knew about science and genetics, but the more their "self-evaluated" knowledge – the more they thought they knew -.

"If someone is well calibrated, these two things should be quite correlated: if I know how much I know, if I know a little bit, I have to say that I know a little bit and if I know I know a lot , ”Fernbach explained. “Therefore, there must be a high correlation between self-assessed and objective knowledge.

"Indeed, it really applies to people who are moderate or to people who have an attitude that is consistent with scientific consensus," he said.

However, as people become more extreme, these relationships deteriorate and pretend that people who think they know more know less.

"The extremists have this sign that it is much worse than others, appreciating how much they know," said Fernbach.

The authors who included Toronto University associates also studied other issues, such as gene therapy to correct genetic disorders, and human-induced denial of climate change. They found that gene therapy had the same effect, but not the denial of climate change. The Fernbach hypothesis that climate change has become so politically polarized that people sign up regardless of their ideological group, no matter how much they think they know.

People often suffer from the "illusion of knowledge" written by the authors, "thinking that they understand everything from common household items to sophisticated social policies better than they are."

"So the obvious thing we should try to do is educate people," said Fernbach. "But it wasn't usually very effective."

Sometimes it returns, and people doubles as "anti-scientific consensus", said Fernbach. "Especially if people feel threatened or considered stupid."

He and his colleagues intend to look at how their results affect other issues such as vaccination and homeopathy, "to see how widespread this effect is."

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