How do individuals decide whether to accept human causes of climate change, vaccinate their children against childhood diseases, or practice social distancing during a pandemic? Democracies depend on educated citizens who can make informed decisions for the benefit of their health and well-being, as well as their communities, nations, and planet. Understanding key psychological explanations for science denial and doubt can help provide a means for improving scientific literacy and understanding – critically important at a time when denial has become deadly. In Science Denial: Why It Happens and What to Do About It, the authors identify the problem and why it matters and offer tools for addressing it. This book explains both the importance of science education and its limitations, shows how science communicators may inadvertently contribute to the problem, and explains how the internet and social media foster misinformation and disinformation. The authors focus on key psychological constructs such as reasoning biases, social identity, epistemic cognition, and emotions and attitudes that limit or facilitate public understanding of science, and describe solutions for individuals, educators, science communicators, and policy makers. If you have ever wondered why science denial exists, want to know how to understand your own biases and those of others, and would like to address the problem, this book will provide the insights you are seeking.
Section I: Science Denial, Doubt, and Resistance
1. What Is the Problem and Why Does It Matter?
2. How Do We Make Sense of Science Claims Online?
3. What Role Can Science Education Play?
Section II: Five Explanations for Science Denial, Doubt, and Resistance
4. How Do Cognitive Biases Influence Reasoning?
5. How Do Individuals Think About Knowledge and Knowing?
6. What Motivates People to Question Science?
7. How Do Emotions and Attitudes Influence Science Understanding?
8. What Can We Do About Science Denial, Doubt, and Resistance?
Gale M. Sinatra is the Stephen H. Crocker Professor of Education and Psychology at the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California, where she directs the Motivated Change Research Lab. She received her B.S., M.S., and PhD in psychology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She has been recognized by the American Educational Research Association for career achievements in research with the Sylvia Scribner Award. She resides in Altadena, California.
Barbara K. Hofer is a Professor of Psychology Emerita at Middlebury College and is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association. She received her PhD in psychology and education from the University of Michigan and an Ed.M. in human development from Harvard University. She is the recipient of national awards for both research and teaching, from the American Educational Research Association and the American Psychological Association. She lives in Middlebury, Vermont.
"Falling somewhere between academic and trade writing, Science Denial is filled with relatable scenarios, research studies, and helpful advice for individuals, educators, science communicators, and policy-makers. As social media discussions of science topics continue to proliferate and carefully reported coverage of science continues to decline, the authors warn readers to ready themselves for a future in which separating fact and fiction may be more difficult than ever. Their book offers abundant practical guidance to help us meet the challenge."
– Stephen M. Casner, NASA's Ames Research Center, Science
"A surprisingly large number of people think that if COVID isn't a hoax, it must be caused by cellphone towers; it's hard to imagine a world working very well when it can't rest on basic, accurate information. This volume makes an important contribution towards beginning to understand why we've come unglued, and what we can do about it."
– Bill McKibben, author of Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?
"Why won't people wear masks during a pandemic? Or buy genetically modified foods? Or vaccinate their children? Sinatra and Hofer provide answers by delving deep into the psychology of science denial. They explain the shortcuts we take when searching for scientific information, the misconceptions we hold about scientific knowledge, and the obstacles we face when changing our beliefs and attitudes about scientific topics. From their synthesis of empirical research to their consideration of real-life dilemmas, Sinatra and Hofer provide a compelling and accessible account of the public's fraught relationship with science, as well as practical advice for improving science communication and increasing science literacy."
– Andrew Shtulman, Professor of Psychology, Occidental College and author of Scienceblind: Why Our Intuitive Theories About the World Are So Often Wrong
"If recent events have taught us anything, it's that science denial – whether it involves the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 or the looming climate crisis – is deadly. Read this book to understand where it comes from, why it's so dangerous, and what we can do about it."
– Michael E. Mann, Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science, Penn State University, and author of The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back our Planet
"Gale Sinatra and Barbara Hofer have written an eloquent, incisive, and compelling account of the scourge of our times – and a growing threat to our future as well. Read this and learn what you can do to defend science."
– Lee McIntyre, Research Fellow, Center for Philosophy and History of Science, Boston University and author of How to Talk to A Science Denier