The less scientific facts align with people’s preexisting cultural worldviews, the less likely they are to accept them as authoritative. This notion is not only central to contemporary theories about ‘motivated reasoning’ and ‘confirmation bias,’ but also to Emile Durkheim’s classical sociology of religion and culture (1995 ; Durkheim and Mauss 1963 ). The latter lies at the basis of a long-standing and established research tradition on culture and cognition (e.g., Brekhus 2015), with many offshoots in communication science and psychology as well as cultural sociology. According to this Durkheimian tradition cultural worldviews do as ‘social facts’ guide people’s feelings, thoughts, and cognitions in a pre-reflexive fashion, operating ‘behind their backs’ so to say (Houtman and Achterberg 2016). In this chapter, we apply this Durkheimian logic to lay interpretations of scientific research findings. We first discuss studies that demonstrate its empirical validity to then point out that science is of course more
than a mere collection of isolated research findings, namely, a rational debate between researchers, driven by skepticism, doubt, and critique.
Whether or not new research findings contradict or confirm the scientific consensus is thus likely to make quite a difference to how they are interpreted. Elaborating on this question, we extend an experimental study by Corbett and Durfee (2004), which does pay attention to the scientific consensus in lay interpretations of research findings, yet fails to systematically address the role of cultural worldviews in doing so. This is odd and not without problems because there are no good reasons to assume that
perceptions of the scientific consensus are immune to cultural biases stemming from cultural worldviews.
Tromp, P., Achterberg, P. (2021). Cultural Worldviews and Lay Interpretations of Research Findings: The Role of the Scientific Consensus. In: Houtman, D., Aupers, S., Laermans, R. (eds) Science under Siege. Cultural Sociology. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-69649-8_6