The Role of Moral Conviction in Shaping Public Science Attitudes

Project: Research project

Project Details


In my dissertation project, I propose that applying moral convictions theory into the domain of science can lend greater understanding to how politics shapes public beliefs and attitudes about science. This project is the first effort to recognize the theoretical parallels between two major literatures in political psychology and public understanding of science and integrate them into a single research agenda. This proposal requests funding to conduct one study within this dissertation project, a study that will test the proposition that individuals who hold an attitude with moral conviction are likely to respond with greater disbelief and criticism to scientific information that challenges that position than those who hold the same position but are less morally convicted. The study is a two-wave survey with a survey experiment embedded in the second wave and employs both within-subjects and between-subjects measures. In the first wave, participants will report their attitudes on a number of political issues that involve science, as well as the extent to which those attitudes are moral convictions. In the second wave, participants will be randomly assigned to read about and evaluate invented scientific studies that either support or challenge the attitudes they reported in Wave 1, with stimuli designed to be identical except for the direction of the results. Comparing the evaluations of those who hold strong moral convictions to those who hold the same position but are less morally convicted will reveal the extent to which morally convicted political attitudes shape public acceptance of science. This study is the lynchpin in my dissertation project, as it will demonstrate the utility of bringing together two distinct literatures, moral convictions theory and public understanding of science, and funding from the Rapoport Dissertation Grant would enable me to acquire enough study participants to conduct this crucial study
Effective start/end date5/2/225/1/23


  • Rapoport Family Foundation (Award Letter 5/2/22)


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