We Value What Values Us: The Appeal of Identity-Affirming Science

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Abstract

Members of the public (Study 1; n = 184) and university students (Study 2; n = 101) evaluated a piece of research and indicated their support for its continuation. The research findings were held constant, but the methods that revealed those findings were attributed to either neuroscience or social science, and the conclusions based on those findings were biased either in favor of men or in favor of women. Study 1 revealed that participants were more positive about research that affirmed their gender identity and that was based on neuroscience rather than social science. Study 2 found this pattern to be apparent in more specialist samples. Indeed, participants with some scientific training were more influenced by research that affirmed the reader's gender identity. Participants with less scientific training, in comparison, were more influenced by the type of science described when making judgments about the value of the research. Contrary to popular claims, this suggests that scientific knowledge alone is no protection against the effects of bias on research evaluation. Implications for the practice and popularization of science are discussed.

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