Between Scientists & Citizens

Why do people (scientists) think there is a “war on science”?–Bibliography

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Point 4 in my project “unilateral disarmament” considers why the story about beleaguered science is so prevalent. I will collect here scholarship potentially relevant to the issue, focusing on studies of science/environmental communication.

Geiger, N., & Swim, J. K. (2016). Climate of silence: Pluralistic ignorance as a barrier to climate change discussion. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 47(C), 79–90.

…We find that inaccurate perceptions of others’ opinions (i.e. pluralistic ignorance) contribute to self-silencing among those concerned about climate change….because perceptions that others do not share one’s opinion are associated with expecting to be perceived as less competent in a conversation about climate change.

Leviston, Z., Walker, I., & Morwinski, S. (2012). Your opinion on climate change might not be as common as you think. Nature Climate Change, 3(4), 334–337.

We demonstrate that opinions about climate change are subject to strong false consensus effects, that people grossly overestimate the numbers of people who reject the existence of climate change in the broader community, and that people with high false consensus bias are less likely to change their opinions.

Mildenberger, M., & Tingley, D. (2017). Beliefs about Climate Beliefs: The Importance of Second-Order Opinions for Climate Politics. British Journal of Political Science, 59, 1–29.  Retrieved from

[False consensus + pluralistic ignorance]…We offer the first comprehensive examination of the distribution and content of second-order climate beliefs in the United States and China, drawing from six new opinion surveys of mass publics, political elites and intellectual elites. We demonstrate that all classes of political actors have second-order beliefs characterized by egocentric bias and global underestimation of pro-climate positions. [Also argues that part of the impact of misinformation campaigns is to create the perception that climate skepticism is rampant; and that understanding of the arguments about AGW is accurate.]

Post, S., & Ramirez, N. (2018). Politicized Science Communication: Predicting Scientists’ Acceptance of Overstatements by Their Knowledge Certainty, Media Perceptions, and Presumed Media Effects. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 107769901876966–21.

[Hostile media perceptions] Partisans in mediated conflicts usually perceive hostile news media, anticipate undesired media effects, and intend to engage discursively. It is hypothesized that hostile media perceptions also encourage polarizing communication. This is tested for scientists involved in a politicized science dispute…. Results indicate that the more certain climate scientists are of AGW, the more they perceive that the news media downplay AGW and presume that the media nourish politicians’ doubts about it. This explains their justifications of overstatements of scientific findings in public.


Rosenthal, S., & Dahlstrom, M. F. (2017). Perceived Influence of Proenvironmental Testimonials. Environmental Communication.

One of the most studied perceptual biases in communication research arises in the third-person effect. According to this framework, individuals regard themselves as being less susceptible than others to the influences of media messages—particularly when the kind of influence is undesirable…Various accounts of this asymmetrical perception relate it to unrealistic optimism, ego enhancement, and other motivational factors. There are also parallel cognitive processes that result in asymmetric self-other perceptions: Whereas introspection may inform beliefs about media influence on the self, individuals rely on intuitive psychology in order to form beliefs about media influence on other people. As a result, lay theories about powerful media effects may promote third-person perception because individuals believe that media effects occur, only not to them. On the other hand, when media messages promote desirable attitudes or behaviours, the effect may shrink or reverse. Reverse third-person perception, or first-person perception, occurs when individuals rate themselves as being more susceptible than others to the influence of media.

Written by jeangoodwin

May 19, 2018 at 1:22 pm

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  1. […] “denialism”). Elsewhere I’ve been developing the case for thinking that scientists, like the rest of us, aren’t particularly good at mapping the range of public opini…; we tend to overestimate the size of noisy, extreme […]

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