Why Can't We Agree About Scientific Facts? The Psychology of Differing World Views | Summary and Q&A

May 9, 2019
World Science Festival
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Why Can't We Agree About Scientific Facts? The Psychology of Differing World Views


Science is filtered through personal beliefs, values, and ideologies, causing disagreement on issues such as climate change, HPV vaccines, and nuclear waste disposal.

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Key Insights

  • 🇨🇫 The public's perception of scientific consensus is heavily influenced by their personal beliefs, values, and ideologies.
  • 📰 Frame shifting, categorizing new information based on pre-existing mental shelves, affects the acceptance or rejection of scientific facts.
  • 🪛 Opposition to HPV vaccine mandates is driven by concerns about sexual behavior, rather than the vaccine's efficacy in preventing cancer.
  • 🫵 The polarization of society makes it challenging to bridge differing views on scientific issues.
  • 🖐️ Motivated reasoning plays a significant role in how individuals interpret and assimilate scientific information.
  • ❓ Scientific literacy alone does not guarantee accurate understanding or acceptance of scientific consensus.
  • ✳️ Risk perception is shaped by cultural cognition and individual worldviews.


there's scientific consensus on a lot of things on climate change the best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate on HPV vaccine the majority of cervical cancer cases are avoidable if we vaccinate against HPV and that deeply burying nuclear waste is a good long-term solution so you would think that t... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: Why do we disagree on scientific consensus?

Disagreement stems from filtering scientific information through our prior beliefs, values, and ideologies. People assimilate reality into their biased worldview rather than adjusting their worldview based on reality. Strongly held identities also play a significant role in protecting personal beliefs.

Q: Why is there opposition to HPV vaccine mandates?

Opposition arises from differing views on the vaccine's impact on sexual behavior. While some see it solely as a protective measure against cancer, others view it as potentially promoting promiscuity among minors or certain demographics.

Q: How does the perception of risk differ based on worldview?

Cultural cognition and motivated reasoning influence risk assessment. Individuals with hierarchical and individualist worldviews may be skeptical of climate change or the need for certain vaccines, while those with egalitarian and communitarian views prioritize societal goals and protecting their children from diseases.

Q: How does scientific literacy impact belief persistence?

Ironically, the more scientifically literate individuals are, the more likely they are to stick to their existing beliefs. This is because we tend to protect our identities and avoid having facts challenge our deeply held truths.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Despite scientific consensus, public agreement on issues like climate change, HPV vaccines, and nuclear waste disposal is elusive due to filtering information through personal beliefs and values.

  • Compliance for mandatory vaccinations is high, but HPV vaccine mandates face opposition due to differing views on its impact on sexual behavior.

  • The way people process new information is influenced by pre-existing mental shelves, categorizing new facts based on their alignment with personal beliefs and values.

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