Wired to Doubt: Why People Fear Vaccines and Climate Change and Mistrust Science

Dobson, Geoffrey P. (2022) Wired to Doubt: Why People Fear Vaccines and Climate Change and Mistrust Science. Frontiers in Medicine, 8. 809395.

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We all want to be right in our thinking. Vaccine hesitancy and global warming denial share much in common: (1) both are threats to personal, community and global health, (2) action is contingent on co-operation and social policy, and (3) public support relies on trust in science. The irony is, however, as the science has become more convincing, public opinion has become more divided. A number of early polls showed that ~70% of people supported COVID-19 vaccine use and global warming, ~20% adopted a wait-and-see approach, and ~10% were staunch objectors. Although these percentages are approximate, what factors are responsible for the differences in engagement, doubt and distrust? How can we reduce the consensus gap? One approach is to return to grass roots and provide a brief history of the issues, understand the difference between fact and opinion, truth and falsehood, the problem of certainty, and how scientific consensus is reached. To doubt is a healthy response to new information, and it too has a scientific basis. Doubt and distrust reside in that region of the brain called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for suppressing unwanted representations. Bridging the consensus gap requires shifting human thinking patterns from doubt to belief, and belief to action. Education and improved public messaging are key, and social media providers require urgent oversight or regulation to remove false and harmful/dangerous content from our digital lives. Delays to vaccinate and failure to reduce greenhouse gases will dramatically change the way we live. The new norm may be more deadly COVID variants, strained healthcare systems, extreme weather patterns, diminished food supply, delays in goods and services, damage to world's economies and widespread global instability.

Item ID: 74647
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2296-858X
Keywords: climate change, coronavirus, denialists, education, science, social media, truth, vaccine hesitancy
Copyright Information: Copyright © 2022 Dobson. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Date Deposited: 07 Dec 2022 01:04
FoR Codes: 52 PSYCHOLOGY > 5299 Other psychology > 529999 Other psychology not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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