‘Psychology of extremism’: People most opposed to GMO crops are least informed about science

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Credit: Pixabay/khsmiley

The people who hold the most extreme views opposing genetically modified (GM) foods think they know most about GM food science, but actually know the least, according to new research [published January 14] in Nature Human Behavior….

Marketing and psychology researchers asked more than 2,000 U.S. and European adults for their opinions about GM foods. The surveys asked respondents how well they thought they understood genetically modified foods, then tested how much they actually knew with a battery of true-false questions on general science and genetics.

Despite a scientific consensus that GM foods are safe for human consumption and have the potential to provide significant nutritional benefits….[m]ore than 90 percent of study respondents reported some level of opposition to GM foods.

Related article:  China approves imports of 125 GMO crops, animal drugs following strict safety reviews

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“This result is perverse, but is consistent with previous research on the psychology of extremism,” said Phil Fernbach, the study’s lead author and professor of marketing at the Leeds School of Business. “Extreme views often stem from people feeling they understand complex topics better than they do.”

“Our findings suggest that changing peoples’ minds first requires them to appreciate what they don’t know,” said study co-author Nicholas Light, a Leeds School of Business PhD candidate. “Without this first step, educational interventions might not work very well to bring people in line with the scientific consensus.”

Read full, original article: Genetically modified food opponents know less than they think, research finds 

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