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Title:Trust in science is not the answer to conspiracies: It’s throwing water on a grease-fire
Author(s):Palmer, Ryan
Advisor(s):Albarracín, Dolores
Department / Program:Psychology
Discipline:Psychology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree:M.S.
Genre:Thesis
Subject(s):conspiracy theory
trust in science
Abstract:Conspiracy theories can be quite dangerous and have risen in prevalence. The rise of conspiracy theories has been met with an outcry to increase public trust in science. However, using trust in science to stop conspiracy theories may have unintended negative consequences. Trust in science entails the blind acceptance of information based on the inclusion vs. exclusion of scientific content. This, combined with the fact that many conspiracy theories contain scientific content, suggests that trust in science may actually increase belief in conspiracy theories that contain science. Thus, we hypothesized that trust in science would interact with the presence of scientific content to predict beliefs and dissemination, such that individuals high in trust in science would depend more on the presence of scientific content in their judgments of legitimacy. In Experiment 1, we gave 148 Amazon Mechanical Turk workers articles varying on presence of scientific content and conspiratorial nature and measured their beliefs in the article. Participants high in trust in science were more likely to believe in the articles containing science and less likely to believe in the conspiratorial articles. In Experiment 2, we gave 73 Amazon Mechanical Turk workers exclusively conspiratorial articles varying on presence of scientific content and measured their beliefs in the articles, as in Experiment 1, and dissemination decisions. A significant interaction was found between trust in science and presence of scientific content on both beliefs in and dissemination of the articles, such that those high in trust in science were more likely to believe in and disseminate articles that contained science. These findings suggest that while trust in science may be beneficial in certain respects, when conspiracy theories contain scientific content, it can be detrimental.
Issue Date:2018-07-06
Type:Thesis
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/2142/101534
Rights Information:Copyright 2018 Ryan Palmer
Date Available in IDEALS:2018-09-27
Date Deposited:2018-08


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