The Role of Conspiracist Ideation and Worldviews in Predicting Rejection of Science

Stephan Lewandowsky*, Gilles E. Gignac, Klaus Oberauer

*Corresponding author for this work

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

428 Citations (Scopus)


Background:Among American Conservatives, but not Liberals, trust in science has been declining since the 1970's. Climate science has become particularly polarized, with Conservatives being more likely than Liberals to reject the notion that greenhouse gas emissions are warming the globe. Conversely, opposition to genetically-modified (GM) foods and vaccinations is often ascribed to the political Left although reliable data are lacking. There are also growing indications that rejection of science is suffused by conspiracist ideation, that is the general tendency to endorse conspiracy theories including the specific beliefs that inconvenient scientific findings constitute a "hoax."Methodology/Principal findings:We conducted a propensity weighted internet-panel survey of the U.S. population and show that conservatism and free-market worldview strongly predict rejection of climate science, in contrast to their weaker and opposing effects on acceptance of vaccinations. The two worldview variables do not predict opposition to GM. Conspiracist ideation, by contrast, predicts rejection of all three scientific propositions, albeit to greatly varying extents. Greater endorsement of a diverse set of conspiracy theories predicts opposition to GM foods, vaccinations, and climate science.Conclusions:Free-market worldviews are an important predictor of the rejection of scientific findings that have potential regulatory implications, such as climate science, but not necessarily of other scientific issues. Conspiracist ideation, by contrast, is associated with the rejection of all scientific propositions tested. We highlight the manifold cognitive reasons why conspiracist ideation would stand in opposition to the scientific method. The involvement of conspiracist ideation in the rejection of science has implications for science communicators.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere75637
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2013

Structured keywords

  • Memory
  • TeDCog


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