The contingency illusion bias as a potential driver of science denial

AbstractScience denial is a pressing social problem, contributing to inactivity in the face of climate change, or to a resurgence in outbreaks of preventable diseases. Cognitive factors are a significant driver of science denial, in addition to social factors such as political ideology. Biases pertaining to judgments of contingency (i.e., inferring causal relationships where none exist) have been associated with misbeliefs, such as belief in the paranormal and conspiracy theories. Here, we examine whether contingency biases likewise predict science denial. We show that (a) various tasks used to study relevant biases do in fact load on a single latent ‘contingency illusion’ factor; (b) this contingency illusion bias is associated with increased science denial; (c) the contingency illusion bias mediates the relationship between intuitive (vs. analytic) cognitive style and science denial; and (d) this holds even when accounting for political ideology.

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