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ESRA 2023 Glance Program

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Ideologies and attitudes towards science

Session Organiser Dr Vera Toepoel (Statistics Netherlands)
TimeTuesday 18 July, 14:00 - 15:30
Room U6-09

Science, as the activity that pursues an epistemological foundation based on the value of technology, has
always guided human action in its constant thirst for knowledge and its progress, as well as in concrete
discoveries and inventions. However, its legitimacy during the advent of Covid-19 pandemic seemed to falter, as a result of both (individual) cognitive processes and new (collective) ideologies that do not always recognise expert knowledge or those subjects who institutionally hold it (virologists, epidemiologists, scientific-technical committees, etc.).
In this scenario, which has the typical features of a “Risk Society”, feelings such as anxiety and fear –
together with a certain inevitable generic alarmism in times of crisis – merge with the consequences of a
hyper-mediated contemporary condition (as observed in today’s “Platform Society”). Among the outcomes of a greater exposure to the effects of misinformation, “filter bubbles”, and “echo-chambers”, there is the polarisation and radicalisation of public debate. In addition to these effects, a very important role is played by the personal resources possessed, in terms of cultural capital and critical thinking skills. The combination of these and other elements leads to a strong distinction between people who continue to place their trust in science and people who lend themselves to a general anti-system distrust, various conspiracy theories and delegitimizing visions.
The present session aims to stimulate a reflection on both collective ideologies and personal attitudes
towards science, with specific reference to the pandemic context and the public opinion about vaccination
policies. The surveys carried out by the various contributions return different explanatory perspectives,
exploring the relationship between society and science through both qualitative and quantitative

Keywords: attitudes towards science, polarisation, vaccination policies


LAIC: A questionnaire designed to measure the attitudinal and ideological dimensions of the styles of thinking about science

Dr Ana Muñoz van den Eynde (CIEMAT) - Presenting Author
Mr Unai Coto Suárez (CIEMAT)
Dr María Cornejo Cañamares (CIEMAT)

The image of science is the mental map that each person creates when interacting with it on a daily basis in a specific social context. It is constructed in the public arena from the information available. Most of it comes from the media, but also "breathing" the attitude and opinion about science from other spheres that interact in the public arena such as, politics. As with sensory information, people do not process "social" information in a vacuum, but filter it through a lens that helps them capture it, interpret it, store it, and retrieve it from memory when it becomes necessary. Styles of thinking about science are the lenses that cause the same information to give rise to radically different images of science. Styles of thinking about science are defined by the lens that transforms the signal coming from the environment (the context). The transformed signal is reflected in the minds of individuals, where it is processed to give rise to the image of science. The lens that shapes the image of science is made up of different dimensions. The questionnaire focuses on the attitudinal and ideological dimensions. Attitude responds to each person's assessment or feeling about science in positive and negative terms. Ideology refers to what is important to individuals and includes issues such as beliefs, values, political orientation or cognitive styles. The LAIC (Lens conformed by the Attitude and Ideology about sCience) questionnaire was developed following the psychometric tradition of personality questionnaires, in which simple and direct statements are presented on which respondents must express their degree of agreement on a scale from 0 (not at all) to 10 (totally) and includes 98 items, 50 measuring the attitudinal and 48 the ideological dimension and has been validated in a Spanish sample of 2,009 people.

Politicized and commercialized perception of science in COVID-19 times: designing and exploring new survey findings

Dr Maria Cornejo Cañamares (CIEMAT) - Presenting Author
Dr Ana Muñoz Van den Eynde (CIEMAT)
Mr Unai Coto Suarez (CIEMAT)

Science’s crisis is real, encompassing the social perceptions of roles and functions of science. Pandemic years have confirmed the relevance of looking in depth at the relationship between science and society. However, this topic is complex to analyze because there is not a unique science and public attitudes depend on what science is involved. According to Ziman (1991, 2003) there is an academic science (based on the production of public, reliable and valid knowledge), an industrial science (associated with the generation of private and useful knowledge) and an instrumental science, captive of material interest and commercial agendas to the point of becoming partisan. If we want to establish an effective relationship between the institution of science, public policy and society, we need to understand the different views that citizens have towards science. The main objective of this communication is to identify, with an innovative survey, which factors explain citizens’ negative attitudes towards instrumental science, what it refers the politicized and commercialized imagen of science. To this end, it was assumed that the public understanding of instrumental science is influenced by sociodemographic variables, individual factors (interest and perceived difficulties to understand science) in combination with indicators that reflect some characteristics of our current social context that include some indicators of pathologic attitudes (individualism, libertarianism, populism, dogmatism, and polarization), pseudo-scientific and paranormal beliefs, critical thinking and ideology. To test this hypothesis, a stepwise linear regression is applied to a sample of 2.096 members of a panel of Spanish consumers surveyed in June 2022. The results show that socio-demographics do not contribute to explaining citizens' attitudes towards instrumental science. On the other hand, pathological attitudes and pseudoscientific beliefs are the variables that contribute most to explaining citizens' understanding of instrumental science. The final model explains 49% of the variance.

The rejection of science from the perspective of a questionnaire designed to measure attitudes and ideology towards science

Mr Unai Coto Suárez (CIEMAT) - Presenting Author
Dr Ana Muñoz van den Eynde (CIEMAT)
Dr Maria Cornejo Cañamares (CIEMAT)

The growing political and ideological polarisation, the emergence of new populist movements, and the still lingering effects of the global pandemic have generated a worrying context. In turn, science has been at the center of public attention as it has become the basis for governmental decision-making, especially in the years marked by the COVID-19 crisis. The convergence of these situations creates a context in which public perception of science can be negatively affected. Consequently, this contribution aims to analyze the attitudes of rejection of science in the Spanish population. For this purpose, the LAIC (Lens conformed by the Attitude and Ideology about sCience) questionnaire has been developed to measure the image of science as a two-dimensional space defined by attitude and ideology, which gathers a sample of 2,009 people in Spain. This instrument gathers a set of indicators to analyze the different elements that contribute to science rejection attitudes, such as pathological social attitudes, critical thinking, and ideological identities. Together with the indicator of rejection of science, a structural equation model is developed, obtaining the total effects of the different indicators. In the model obtained, the effect of the lack of critical knowledge (-0.36) on attitudes of rejection of science stands out in comparison with the attitudinal and ideological indicators. Modifying the social context or ideological beliefs is not a pragmatic effort, if not impossible, but acting on critical thinking is an achievable strategy, as well as being particularly relevant in a context such as the one described, where other problems such as fake news or infodemic have a strong presence in the social present