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Science to the Rescue

Researchers found that global trust in science is on the rise.

Key points

  • Increased focus on science with the onset of COVID-19 has raised awareness regarding its critical role in problem-solving.
  • If trust in science is on the rise, it could protect against falling prey to dangerous attitudes.
  • Consumers with higher trust in science may be more resistant to vaccines and coronavirus misinformation.

Despite what users may be seeing on their social media feeds, evidence suggests that trust in science is on the rise. This news is particularly positive given that we are on the brink of what may be the next wave of this global pandemic.

A recent international survey of over 100,000 participants polled from 113 countries found that the majority of respondents trusted science either “a lot” or “some” (Imbler, 2021). The results spotlight that the increased focus on science with the onset of COVID-19 has raised awareness regarding its critical role in problem-solving.

Moreover, despite widespread misinformation about vaccines spreading across social media platforms, the respondents of this survey demonstrated an increased trust in science, likely at least partially related to the critical role it has played in lessening the catastrophic effects of the coronavirus.

It is perhaps not surprising that political polarization was also reflected in the way participants in the United States responded. Democrats demonstrated increased confidence in science. While Republican respondents indicated they were more likely to show a decline in their trust in science (Imbler, 2021).

Such a finding is consistent with earlier literature on anti-vaccine attitudes, which has linked fear, vulnerability to conspiracy thinking, and lack of trust in science as values associated with anti-vaccine beliefs (Hornsey et al., 2018). However, the good news is that if trust is on the rise towards science, it could serve a protective function against falling prey to developing dangerous attitudes.

New York has been particularly vigilant in tracking how the spread of misinformation during the pandemic has impacted attitudes towards vaccinations. Many of the roots of inaccurate information regarding the coronavirus vaccines were linked to disinformation campaigns—deliberate spreading false information for political or other material gains, in specific pockets of the city (Gay, 2021). It would be interesting to assess the intersection between the extent to which consumers of such materials trust science and their potential susceptibility to being influenced by such false information.

Alas, the results of this recent international survey are heartening. The rise in trust in science across the world suggests that the majority of us recognize the critical role science plays in protecting populations against life-threatening diseases such as the coronavirus. Widespread trust in science is what will lead us out of this pandemic.

Copyright 2021 Azadeh Aalai

References

Gay, M. (2021, October 31). Not Everyone in New York Wanted the Coronavirus to Lose. The New York Times: Opinion. Retrieved on December 7, 2021 from: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/31/opinion/vaccine-disinformation-new-y…

Hornsey, M.J., Harris, E.A., Fielding, K.S. (2018). The Psychological Roots of Anti-Vaccine Attitudes: A 24-Nation Investigation. Health Psychology, 37(4), 307-315.

Imbler, S. (2021, December 7). Trust in Science Has Increased Globally. The New York Times: Science. [Print]

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