The study shows that people who tend to trust their intuition or believe that the facts they hear are politically biased are more likely to stand behind inaccurate beliefs.
“Scientific and political misperceptions are dangerously common in the U.S. today. The willingness of large minorities of Americans to embrace falsehoods and conspiracy theories poses a threat to society’s ability to make well-informed decisions about pressing matters,” Garrett said.
Garrett co-authored the study with Brian Weeks from the University of Michigan with the support of the National Science Foundation. They examined data from three nationally representative surveys that included anywhere from 500 to almost 1,000 participants. Their aim was to better understand how people form their beliefs and how that might contribute to their willingness to accept ideas with little or no evidence to support them.
Garrett and Weeks compared how participants’ approach to deciding what is true was related to their beliefs about hot-button topic such as climate change and the link between vaccines and autism. They found that people who believe that truth is shaped by politics and power are more likely to embrace falsehoods, while those who rely on evidence were less likely to embrace falsehoods.
Garrett shared his findings in a short segment on ABC6 and served as a panelist on 10TV's Face the State. Garrett also published a piece on The Conversation discussing his findings for a non-academic audience.