Radboud University: Deniers are indeed willing to change their beliefs

From debates about climate change to vaccine debates. There are always people who hold on to false beliefs, despite the state of science. That is what PhD candidate Aart van Stekelenburg said three years ago(verwijst naar een andere website).

After completing his thesis, the Radboud researcher(verwijst naar een andere website) is slightly more optimistic. “The prevailing idea is that science communication would not work if you stick only to the facts and that you should, for instance, play more on emotions”, he says. “But this research shows time and again that most people are prepared to adjust their convictions if there is enough scientific evidence.”

Repetition works

The fact that scientific knowledge sometimes fails to catch on is more likely due to the fact that people sometimes wait too long before disseminating it. “For example, the tobacco lobby became big before communication about the dangers of smoking had properly started”, explains Van Stekelenburg. But eventually most people became aware of the risks of smoking.

Van Stekelenburg therefore advises scientists and journalists to keep repeating their message. “As a journalist, keep explaining what the scientific consensus is. If there is a lot of evidence, such as on climate change or the efficacy of vaccinations, the chance that this knowledge is incorrect is very small. And, as a scientist, it helps to be transparent about how research was conducted and how certain the research field is of certain findings.”

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