A New Model for Belief Change Prediction

A recent study published in Science Advances proposes a novel model for predicting and help to determine who will change their responses on controversial “scientific issues” when received evidence-based information.

Researchers designed a statistical-physical framework incorporating moral and social perspectives with 20 interactive beliefs to simulate belief change. The cognitive network model was used to predict the view changes of nearly 1,000 people as a result of the educational intervention. These trial participants were at least skeptical about the efficacy of genetic modification (GM) and childhood vaccines.

At the beginning of the experiment, researchers presented information about genetic modification and the scientific consensus on vaccines to the participants. The information created dissonance in the mind of someone who believed scientists but was told by family and friends that the vaccine is unsafe. While others, who were already resistant to GM or vaccines, became even more resistant to genetic modification or vaccines after seeing the new information, even if the outcome was not the original intent of the intervention.

In this study, those who had dissonance about their intertwined belief networks prior to the experiment were more likely to change their beliefs once they saw the message, but not necessarily according to it. On the other hand, those with little dissonance showed little change after the intervention.

Although the study is still in its early stages, it may eventually have a significant role in delivering “scientific” evidence-based information to the public.

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