"Gut feelings" may lead to belief in falsehood: study

Source:Xinhua Published: 2017/9/20 8:10:19

A new study suggests people who tend to trust their intuition or to believe that the facts they hear are politically biased are more likely to stand behind inaccurate beliefs.

In contrast, according to authors of the study published this week in the journal PLOS ONE, those who rely on concrete evidence to form their beliefs are less likely to have misperceptions about high-profile scientific and political issues.

By examining data from three nationally representative surveys that included anywhere from 500 to almost 1,000 participants, Kelly Garrett of the Ohio State University and Brian Weeks of the University of Michigan tried to better understand how people form their beliefs and how that might contribute to their willingness to accept ideas with little or no evidence to support them.

They looked at how participants responded to 12 questions, such as "I trust my gut to tell me what's true and what's not," "Evidence is more important than whether something feels true" and "Facts are dictated by those in power."

They used responses to these questions to assess people's faith in intuition, their need for evidence, and their belief that "truth" is political.

"We're tapping into something about people's understanding of the world, something about how they think about what they know, how they know it and what is true," noted Garrett, a professor of communication at the Ohio State University.

The researchers compared how participants' approach to deciding what is true was related to their beliefs about hot-button topics, including the debunked link between vaccines and autism and the science-based connection between human activity and climate change.

In the study, a belief that truth is political was the strongest predictor of whether someone would buy into conspiracy theories, and those who rely on intuition to assess the truth had a stronger tendency to endorse conspiracies.

"Scientific and political misperceptions are dangerously common in the US today," Garrett said in a news release.

"The willingness of large minorities of Americans to embrace falsehoods and conspiracy theories poses a threat to society's ability to make well-informed decisions about pressing matters," Garrett said.

Posted in: BIOLOGY

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