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Genetically Modified Food Survey Shows Opponents Know Less About The Science Than They Think

Monday 21/January/2019 - 06:55 PM
Sada El Balad
Edited by Ahmed Moamar
A survey of more than 2،000 adults about genetically modified (GM) food found that the strongest opponents know the least about the science albeit they think they know the most، as the Technical Times said.

Genetically Modified Foods
Genetically modified foods are produced from genetically engineered organisms. The objective is to produce crops that are resistant to pathogens and herbicides، and have better nutrient profiles.

Despite a scientific consensus that GM foods can be safely consumed and can provide significant benefits، many are still opposed to their use.

Survey About People's Opinion On GM Foods
In a new study published in Nature Human Behaviour on Monday، Jan. 14، researchers surveyed more than 2،000 adults for their opinions about GM foods.

The researchers asked the respondents about how well they thought they understood GM foods and then tested them how much they actually knew using a series of questions about general science and genetics.

The result showed that the more strongly the respondents are opposed to GM foods، the more knowledgeable they think they are on the topic، and the lower they score on the tests.

"We find that as extremity of opposition to and concern about genetically modified foods increases، objective knowledge about science and genetics decreases، but perceived understanding of genetically modified foods increases،" the researchers wrote in their study. "Extreme opponents know the least، but think they know the most."

Psychology Of Extremism
Study researcher Phil Fernbach، from Leeds School of Business، said the result is consistent with earlier research on the psychology of extremism.

"Extreme views often stem from people feeling they understand complex topics better than they do،" Fernbach said.

The researchers said that a possible consequence of this phenomenon is that those who know the least about important scientific issues are more likely to stay away because they are not open to new knowledge.

The trend reflects the Dunning-Kruger effect، a cognitive bias in which individuals with low ability mistakenly think their cognitive ability is greater than it is. This prevents incompetent people from recognizing their own incompetence.

"Our research shows that you need to add something else to the equation،" Fernbach said. "Extremists think they understand this stuff already، so they are not going to be very receptive to education. You first need to get them to appreciate the gaps in their knowledge."

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