“Although people generally aim at getting a fair representation of reality, accuracy about scientific issues only matters to the extent that individuals perceive it as useful to achieve their own goals.”
This is what Tiffany Morisseau, Ty Branch and Gloria Origgi from the PERITIA team (Work Packages 5 & 6) argue in a recently published Journal Article in Frontiers in Psychology. Under the title “Stakes of Knowing the Truth: A Motivational Perspective on the Popularity of a Controversial Scientific Theory“, the three researchers from Institut Jean Nicod, STRANE Innovation, and Université Paris Descartes aim “to provide a different perspective on people’s beliefs regarding controversial scientific information”.
Their finding that the pursuit of scientific accuracy depends on people’s goals has important consequences “in terms of how anti-science attitudes as well as epistemically questionable beliefs must be interpreted, which has consequences for addressing misinformation.” Examining the uptake of hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment of Covid-19 in France, as well as the media hype and public concern for (online) misinformation surrounding this topic, the article argues that “people who endorse scientific misinformation are not truly interested in its accuracy”, and that many times “plausibility at face value often suffices when it is meant to be used for social purposes only.”
The paper is open access and free for download. It is part of the PERITIA research outputs that have received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 870883.
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