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The pivotal role of perceived scientific consensus in acceptance of science

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages399-404
Number of pages6
JournalNature Climate Change
Journal publication dateApr 2013
Journal issue4
Volume3
DOIs
StatePublished

Abstract

Although most experts agree that CO2 emissions are causing anthropogenic global warming (AGW), public concern has been declining. One reason for this decline is the 'manufacture of doubt' by political and vested interests, which often challenge the existence of the scientific consensus. The role of perceived consensus in shaping public opinion is therefore of considerable interest: in particular, it is unknown whether consensus determines people's beliefs causally. It is also unclear whether perception of consensus can override people's 'worldviews', which are known to foster rejection of AGW. Study 1 shows that acceptance of several scientific propositions-from HIV/AIDS to AGW-is captured by a common factor that is correlated with another factor that captures perceived scientific consensus. Study 2 reveals a causal role of perceived consensus by showing that acceptance of AGW increases when consensus is highlighted. Consensus information also neutralizes the effect of worldview.

Research areas

  • CLIMATE-CHANGE, CULTURAL COGNITION, RISK BEHAVIOR, INTERVENTION, BENEFITS, BELIEFS, PEOPLE, IMPACT, POLICY

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