Curiosity Cures Bias

Brilliance | Dec. 11, 2017

We all think we form opinions by carefully weighing the evidence. But that's rarely the case, especially when it comes to politically divisive issues such as global warming, GMOs, vaccinations, and fracking. Luckily, there's a cure.

A 2016 study by Yale University researchers set out to determine what impact scientific knowledge and curiosity had on people's opinions of polarizing scientific topics. They began by measuring these two elements in the participants. Scientific knowledge was determined with a set of questions about basic scientific facts and quantitative reasoning, and scientific curiosity was measured with a set of questions and a choice of material to read—those who chose to read science stories over sports or politics got a higher curiosity score.

With these characteristics measured, the participants then judged how concerned they were about politically charged issues. Predictably, liberal Democrats were more likely to judge global warming and fracking as significant risks to the planet, and conservative Republicans were less so. But strangely, the more scientific knowledge a person had, the more likely they were to be polarized—scientifically knowledgeable liberals were most concerned about the risks, and scientifically knowledgeable conservatives were least concerned. Scientific curiosity, though, showed something different. The more curious people's opinions got closer to converging politically, with more concern over fracking and global warming from curious liberals and conservatives alike. This shows that reaching across the aisle for bipartisanship doesn't require more knowledge; it just requires a more curious mind. Learn more about curiosity with the videos below.

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