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Explaining public understanding of the concepts of climate change, nutrition, poverty and effective medical drugs: an international experimental survey

Krauss, Alexander and Colombo, Matteo (2020) Explaining public understanding of the concepts of climate change, nutrition, poverty and effective medical drugs: an international experimental survey. PLOS ONE, 15 (6). ISSN 1932-6203

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Identification Number: 10.1371/journal.pone.0234036

Abstract

Climate change, nutrition, poverty and medical drugs are widely discussed and pressing issues in science, policy and society. Despite these issues being of great importance for the quality of our lives it remains unclear how well people understand them. Specifically, do particular demographic and socioeconomic factors explain variation in public understanding of these four concepts? To what extent are people's changes in understanding associated with changes in their behaviour? Do people judge scientific practices relying on the more descriptive concepts of climate change and effective medical drugs to be more objective (less controversial) than practices relying on the more value-laden concepts of poverty and healthy nutrition? To address these questions, an experimental survey and regression analyses are conducted using data collected from about one thousand participants across different continents. The study finds that public understanding of science is generally low. A smaller proportion of people were able to correctly identify the common explanation accepted internationally among the scientific community for climate change and effectiveness of medical drugs (42% and 43% of participants in the study, respectively) than for poverty and healthy nutrition (61% and 65% of participants, respectively). Older age and political non-conservativeness were the strongest predictors of correctly understanding these four concepts. Greater levels of education and political non-conservativeness were in turn the strongest predictors of people's reported changes in their behaviour based on their improved understanding of these concepts. Because climate change is among the least understood scientific concepts but is arguably the greatest challenge of our time, better efforts are needed to improve how media, awareness campaigns and education systems mediate information on the topic in order to tackle the large knowledge deficits that constrain behavioural change.

Item Type: Article
Official URL: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/
Additional Information: © 2020 The Authors
Divisions: CPNSS
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
Q Science > Q Science (General)
Date Deposited: 02 Jun 2020 09:42
Last Modified: 17 Jul 2020 11:57
URI: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/104669

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