Conspiracy Theorists Fooled by Even the Most Obvious Anti-science Trolling: Study

Source: awStory via AlterNet

Author: Travis Gettys

Emphasis Mine

Anti-science conspiracy theorists are so credulous they can’t determine when they’re being purposefully duped, according to a new study.

A team of Italian and American researchers tested the social media biases feeding belief in conspiracy theories such as chemtrailsshape-shifting reptilian overlords, and the Illuminatireported Motherboard.

The researchers found that adherents to conspiracy theories are highly receptive to claims that support their views and rarely engage with social media pages that question their beliefs.  The ongoing measles outbreak linked to unvaccinated children has exposed one danger posed by hostility toward science, which is promoted in large part through social media.

The World Economic Forum last year identified “digital misinformation” alongside terrorism, cyber attacks, and global governmental failure as threats to modern society.

Social media allows this misinformation to be transmitted and amplified as users gather around shared beliefs, interests, and worldviews – whether or not factual evidence supports those belief systems.

The researchers examined social media patterns for 1.2 million Facebook users and found that nearly 92 percent of those who engage with Italian conspiracy theory pages interact almost exclusively with conspiracy theory pages.

The study also found that conspiracy theory posts are much more likely to be shared and liked by Facebook users.

The researchers then tested the strength of these users’ biases by posting “troll information” – or sarcastic comments parodying anti-science views – on Facebook.

“These posts are clearly unsubstantiated claims, like the undisclosed news that infinite energy has been finally discovered, or that a new lamp made of actinides (e.g. plutonium and uranium) might solve problems of energy gathering with less impact on the environment, or that the chemical analysis revealed that chemtrails contains sildenafil citratum (the active ingredient of Viagra),” the researchers said.

They found that 78 percent of those who “liked” these 4,709 troll posts interacted primarily with conspiracy theory pages, as were 81 percent of those who commented on them.

The researchers also noted that anti-conspiracy theorists often wasted “cognitive resources” pushing back against these unscientific “troll” claims, even when they were “satirical imitation of false claims.”




What Motivates Rejection of (Climate) Science?

From: Via Portside


Researchers from The University of Western Australia
have examined what motivates people who are greatly
involved in the climate debate to reject scientific

The study Motivated Rejection of Science, to be
published in Psychological Science, was designed to
investigate what motivates the rejection of science in
visitors to climate blogs who choose to participate in
the ongoing public debate about climate change.

More than 1000 visitors to blogs dedicated to
discussions of climate science completed a questionnaire
that queried people’s belief in a number of scientific
questions and conspiracy theories, including: Princess
Diana’s death was not an accident; the Apollo moon
landings never happened; HIV causes AIDS; and smoking
causes lung cancer. The study also considered the
interplay of these responses with the acceptance of
climate science, free market ideology and the belief
that previous environmental problems have been resolved.

The results showed that those who subscribed to one or
more conspiracy theories or who strongly supported a
free market economy were more likely to reject the
findings from climate science as well as other sciences.

The researchers, led by UWA School of Psychology
Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, found that free-market
ideology was an overwhelmingly strong determinant of the
rejection of climate science. It also predicted the
rejection of the link between tobacco and lung cancer
and between HIV and AIDS. Conspiratorial thinking was a
lesser but still significant determinant of the
rejection of all scientific propositions examined, from
climate to lung cancer.

“Blogs have a huge impact on society and so it’s
important that we understand the motivations and the
reasoning of those who visit blogs to contribute to the
discussion. There has been much research pointing to
the role of free-market ideology in rejecting climate
science, but this is the first time it’s been shown that
other scientific facts, such as the link between HIV and
AIDS, are also subject to ideological rejection,”
Professor Lewandowsky said.

By contrast, a major determinant of the acceptance of
science was the perceived consensus among scientists.
The more agreement among scientists, the more people
were likely to accept the scientific findings.

“It is important to understand the role of perceived
consensus because it highlights how damaging the media’s
handling of climate issues can be when they create the
appearance of a scientific debate where there is none:
More than 90 in 100 climate researchers agree on the
basic fact that the globe is warming due to human
greenhouse gas emissions,” Professor Lewandowsky said.”

Media references

Professor Stephan Lewandowsky (UWA School of Psychology)
(+61 8) 6488 3231 / 7862
Michael Sinclair-Jones (UWA Public Affairs) (+61 8)
6488 3229 / (+61 4) 00 700 783

Emphasis Mine