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Developing and Testing the Psychological Distance to Science Model

Project description

Testing an explanatory 'psychological distance to science' model

Increased science scepticism in today’s society poses a serious social challenge. It manifests in many ways, for example as climate change denial and vaccination hesitancy. The reasons may lie in a lack of efficient explanatory power or in religious and ideological precursors. But researchers still cannot identify and explain its mechanisms on scientific grounds. The EU-funded PSYDISC project will investigate the 'psychological distance to science' model as a forerunner of science scepticism. It will be tested in numerous different domains and topics. The evidence will be provided by experiments, surveys, longitudinal studies and analysis to identify empirically based data that will help to reduce levels of scepticism toward scientific reasoning.


Increases in science scepticism among the public represent one of the key societal challenges of the 21st century. Recent research has made some progress by identifying variables that contribute to science scepticism. However, there are two important limitations to the current state-of-the art. One is that the antecedents identified so far have limited explanatory power, leaving substantial unexplained variance. The other is that these antecedents are unmalleable (e.g. religiosity, ideology), so that although it is possible to—to some extent—predict science scepticism, structural and theory-informed ways to understand and change scepticism are not yet identified. To overcome these limitations, I propose a Psychological Distance to Science model (PSYDISC), which states that perceiving science as psychologically distant is a crucial antecedent of science scepticism. This project will move research on science scepticism beyond the state-of-the-art in two ways: 1) PSYDISC will structurally explain unique variance across various topics of science scepticism; 2) the project will provide experimental evidence for the effects of psychological distance to science, and so identify empirically-based ways in which levels of science scepticism can be reduced.
1.PSYDISC will be tested by assessing as well as manipulating psychological distance to science.
2.This will be done by utilizing a multi-method approach that includes large-scale surveys, controlled experiments, randomized longitudinal studies, and secondary data analysis.
3.Various high-quality samples from around the world will be used to this end.
4.Previously identified predictors of scepticism will be controlled for in order to gauge the unique explanatory power of PSYDISC.
PSYDISC will provide a much-needed theoretically informed account of science scepticism and so provide the basis for a long-term research agenda aimed at drastically increasing our understanding of the psychology behind science scepticism.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 500 000,00
1012WX Amsterdam

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West-Nederland Noord-Holland Groot-Amsterdam
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 500 000,00

Beneficiaries (1)