Motivated Rejection of Science

Stephan Lewandowsky*, Klaus Oberauer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

157 Citations (Scopus)
1051 Downloads (Pure)


Some scientifically well-established results—such as the fact that emission of greenhouse gases produces global warming—are rejected by sizable proportions of the population in the United States and other countries. Rejection of scientific findings is mostly driven by motivated cognition: People tend to reject findings that threaten their core beliefs or worldview. At present, rejection of scientific findings by the U.S. public is more prevalent on the political right than the left. Yet the cognitive mechanisms driving rejection of science, such as the superficial processing of evidence toward the desired interpretation, are found regardless of political orientation. General education and scientific literacy do not mitigate rejection of science but, rather, increase the polarization of opinions along partisan lines. In contrast, specific knowledge about the mechanisms underlying a scientific result—such as human-made climate change—can increase the acceptance of that result.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-222
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016

Structured keywords

  • Memory
  • TeDCog


  • cognition about science
  • rejection of science
  • science and the public
  • science communication


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