No Missing Link: Knowledge Predicts Acceptance of Evolution in the U.S. (coming soon) Weisberg, D., Landrum, A. R., Metz, S. E., & Weisberg, M. (in press). BioScience
Most Americans reject some or all parts of evolutionary theory, contrary to the scientific consensus. Using a new demographically representative survey (N=1100) that includes a detailed measure of evolution knowledge, we find that knowledge predicts level of acceptance, even after accounting for the effects of religion and political ideology.
Stop Preaching to the Choir (PDF) Landrum, A. R., Lull, R. B., (2017), Nature Climate Change
Traditional moral arguments fail to persuade conservative climate sceptics. Pope Francis’ gifting of his climate encyclical to President Trump prior to his leaving the Paris Agreement shows that even a religious leader’s persuasive power is constrained by how his message resonates with conservative moral values.
Previous research suggests that when individuals encounter new information, they interpret it through perceptual ‘filters’ of prior beliefs, relevant social identities, and messenger credibility. In short, evaluations are not based solely on message accuracy, but also on the extent to which the message and messenger are amenable to the values of one’s social groups. Here, we use the release of Pope Francis’s 2015 encyclical as the context for a natural experiment to examine the role of prior values in climate change cognition.
This paper is a response letter to one written by Blancke et al. on their experience communicating with audiences about genetically-modified organisms (or GMOs). As science communication scholars, we encourage interdisciplinary efforts such as those by Blancke, Grunewald, and De Jaeger to engage with the public on GMOs and genetic engineering broadly. We extend the advice given by these scholars with tips based on what we know from the science of science communication.
This paper describes a model that adds the phenomenon of culturally antagonistic memes. Arising adventitiously, antagonistic memes transform cognition from consensus-generating, truth-convergent influences on information processing into identity-protective ones. Supporting this model, we report experime, 38ntal results involving perceptions of the risk of the Zika virus: a general sample of U.S. subjects, whose members were not polarized when exposed to neutral information, formed ideologically-polarized, affective reactions when exposed to information that was pervaded with antagonistic memes linking Zika to global warming; when exposed to comparable information linking Zika to unlawful immigration, the opposed affective stances of the subjects flipped in direction.
In this paper, we present evidence suggesting that science curiosity can counteract politically-biased information processing, such as that associated with selective exposure and motivated reasoning. We first describe the scale-development strategy employed to overcome common problems associated with measuring science curiosity. Then, we report observational and experimental data demonstrating that science curiosity promotes open-minded engagement with information contrary to individuals' political predispositions.
Making it about morals: Pope Francis shifts the climate change debate (PDF) Landrum, A. R., Lull, R. B., Akin, H., & Jamieson, K. H. (2016) Presented at the 2016 Conference for the American Association of Public Opinion Research
In this paper, we present two studies that examine the moral text of the papal encyclical and the viability of its rhetorical strategy. In the first study, we use Moral Foundations Theory to analyze the text of Laudato si' and categorize some of its arguments according to how those arguments might have appealed to different ideological groups. In the second study, we used nationally-representative data to examine to what extent these different ideological groups accepted the moral arguments offered in Laudato si'.
In the current study, we present the methods for creating and validating a science curiosity scale. We find that the scale presented here is unidimensional and highly reliable. Moreover, it predicts engagement with a science documentary clip more accurately than do measures of science intelligence or education. Although more steps are needed, this provides initial evidence for the utility of our measure of science curiosity.
In many ways, evaluating informants based on their features is a problem of induction: children rely on the assumption that observable informant characteristics (e.g., behaviors, appearance) will predict unobservable ones (e.g., knowledge states, intentions). Yet, to make sensible inferences, children must recognize what features are relevant for what types of inferences. In this study, we found that preschoolers used both social features (e.g., niceness or meanness information) and epistemic ones (e.g., expertise) when making inferences about how much knowledge an informant has. In contrast, preschoolers use only social features (and not epistemic ones) when making inferences about how an informant will behave.
Learning from other people involves integrating reasoning about an informant's psychological properties, such as knowledge and intent, with reasoning about the implications of the data the informant chooses to present. Here, we argue for an approach that considers these two reasoning patterns as interrelated, reciprocal processes that develop over experience and guide learners when acquiring knowledge about the world.
In three experiments, we investigate how preschoolers weigh competence and benevolence when deciding whom to trust. Children were presented with two informants who provided conflicting labels for novel objects - one informant was competent but mean, and the other was incompetent but nice. Across experiments, we manipulated the order in which competence and benevolence were presented and the way in which they were described (via trait labels or descriptions of prior behavior).
This study investigates developmental change in learners’ evaluations of evidence that varies in quality—inductive strength based on typicality or diversity. We found that while younger children track which informant provides which examples, they do not have clear preferences for the informant who provides stronger examples. Older children, on the other hand, are in the middle of a developmental transition. They rate informants who provide inductively strong examples as more trustworthy, but only reliably choose the informant who provides diverse examples.
Three experiments examined elementary school-aged children's and adults' expectations regarding what specialists (i.e., those with narrow domains of expertise) and generalists (i.e., those with broad domains of expertise) are likely to know. We demonstrate that between the ages of 5 and 10, children are developing the ability to recognize how experts' knowledge is likely to be limited. That said, even older children at adults at times struggle to determine the breadth of an expert's knowledge.
Children are frequently faced with problems that they cannot immediately solve on their own. For some of these problems, children can learn from listening to claims and advice from others. However, in many other situations, children must actively seek information from others by asking questions. This chapter examines developmental and individual differences in the ability to question the most knowledgeable, accurate sources when problem solving.
How do children use an informant's niceness, meanness, and expertise when determining whom to trust for new information? Three experiments demonstrate that although children are quite adept at recognizing when an expert has relevant knowledge, they prefer to trust new information from someone who is nice--even if he was described as having no knowledge at all.
Two experiments examined developmental differences in how children weigh capability and objectivity when evaluating potential judges. Overall, these results support that there are important shifts in how children evaluate decision-makers from early to middle childhood.
To obtain reliable information, it is important to identify and effectively question knowledgeable informants. Two experiments examined how age and ease of distinguishing between reliable and unreliable sources influence children's ability to effectively question sources to solve problems.