Vaccinating people against pseudoscience

Discussion in 'Earth Science' started by billvon, May 31, 2017.

  1. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Interesting research out of Cambridge and George Mason universities. It shows that people can be "inoculated" against fake news, and this may help with public science education.
    Scientists are testing a “vaccine” against climate change denial

    “Inoculating” people against misinformation may give scientific facts a shot at survival.
    Updated by Michelle Nijhuis May 31, 2017, 8:30am EDT

    In the battle between facts and fake news, facts are at a disadvantage. Researchers have found that facts alone rarely dislodge misperceptions, and in some cases even strengthen mistaken beliefs.

    That’s just as true for climate change as it is for any other politically polarized issue in the US. The theory of identity-protective cognition, developed by Yale Law professor Dan Kahan, holds that we subconsciously resist any facts that threaten our defining values — and better reasoning skills may make us even better at resisting. People who are more scientifically literate, for instance, are even more divided about the risks of climate change than those who are less scientifically literate.

    Deliberate campaigns against climate change science — like the one launched by the American Petroleum Institute in the late 1990s that’s been much imitated since — have taken advantage of this tendency, encouraging resistance to the facts by exaggerating the uncertainty inherent in the science.

    But two recent, preliminary studies suggest there’s hope for the facts about climate change. Borrowing from the medical lexicon, these studies show that it may be possible to metaphorically “inoculate” people against misinformation about climate change, and by doing so give the facts a boost. What’s more, these researchers suggest, strategic inoculation could create a level of “herd immunity” and undercut the overall effects of fake news.

    Psychologists have known for decades that people are more resistant to misinformation if they’re warned about it beforehand. Teens who are warned about the dangers of smoking are less likely to succumb to their friends’ arguments in favor of it; people who are warned about pro-sugar campaigns by soda companies are less likely to fall for them. These “inoculation messages” can even work retroactively, changing the minds of those who have already been influenced by misinformation.
    John Cook, a cognitive scientist at the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University in Virginia, recently tested the strength of inoculation messages against the notorious Oregon Petition, which uses fake experts to cast doubt on the scientific consensus on climate change.

    In the journal PLOS One, Cook and his colleagues reported that when about 100 study participants were presented with the misinformation alone, their views did further polarize along political lines. But when another group of participants were first warned about a general strategy used in misinformation campaigns — in this case, they were told that fake experts had often been used by the tobacco industry to question the scientific consensus about the effects of tobacco on health, and were shown an ad with the text “20,679 physicians say ‘Luckies are less irritating’” — the polarizing effect of the misinformation was completely neutralized.

    “Nobody likes to be misled, no matter their politics,” says Cook. He suggests that inoculation messages may serve to put listeners on alert for trickery, making them more likely to scrutinize the information they receive.

    Cook’s research complements findings by Sander van der Linden, a psychology professor at Cambridge, who has also tested the strength of inoculation messages against the Oregon Petition. In a studypublished in the journal Global Challenges earlier this year, van der Linden and his colleagues presented more than 2,000 participants of varying political beliefs with one of two inoculation messages. The first, shorter message stated that “some politically motivated groups use misleading tactics to try to convince the public that there is a lot of disagreement among scientists.” Participants were then told that among climate scientists, there is virtually no disagreement that humans are causing climate change. The longer message specifically debunked the Oregon Petition before informing participants about the scientific consensus.

    Both messages were equally effective across the political spectrum; the shorter message protected the effects of the scientific consensus on participants by one-third, while the longer one protected by about two-thirds. Inoculation, in other words, doesn’t insulate the facts from damage, but it does give them a shot at survival.

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  3. danshawen Valued Senior Member

    If we did that (vaccinating folks against pseudoscience), the anti- vaxers would just ruin it by saying it causes autism spectrum disorders. For every vaccine, there is an antivaxer who thinks that killing the disease before it creates a pandemic is just wrong.

    Give us an effective vaccine against anti-vaxers, and you will save much more than the few things that might go wrong as a result of the dissemination of other less harmful forms of disinformation and pseudoscience.

    Give us a vaccine against the tobacco industry selling lung cancer and the government collecting taxes from tobacco sales but giving back not a penny to assure that anyone who does not work for the government can get affordable health care.

    Give us a vaccine against registered voters so stupid they elect someone like Donald Trump who supports disinformation and conspiracy theories and won't listen to anyone who actually knows the scientific basis of global warming.
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  5. sculptor Valued Senior Member

    Why in hell would any decent human being wish to inflict psychotropic vaccines on their fellow man?

    If we are interested in a definition of evil, this may come close.
    danshawen likes this.
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  7. parmalee peripatetic artisan Valued Senior Member


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