The Role of Misinformation in Explaining Public Perceptions of Science

Friday, February 17, 2017: 3:00 PM-4:30 PM
Room 312 (Hynes Convention Center)
This session brings together an international panel of researchers from political science, sociology, and psychology to share new evidence on the role of misinformation in public opinion on science and science policy. Researchers have long been interested in how science literacy is distributed across the public and how knowledge “deficits” might limit the capacity of citizens to engage in rational debates about science and public policy. Until now, the focus has largely been on contrasting information with lack of information. Yet a third component is being ignored: misinformation. In this session, speakers present empirical research that examines both the causes and consequences of misinformation among the public, particularly in relation to “hot button” issues. Speakers will address the following questions, among others: How does the opinion of a misinformed citizen differ from one that is uninformed? Do people choose to express false beliefs to signify cultural identities or have personality traits that predispose them to disbelieve the scientific consensus? What is the role played by political elites in fostering or discouraging scientific misinformation? Speakers will present data from surveys and experiments carried out in the U.S. and the U.K. and discuss the implications of these findings for science communicators.
Nick Allum, University of Essex
Nic Vogelpoel, Wellcome Trust
Dan Kahan, Yale Law School
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