Brain powerEvidence-based knowledge managementQuality of science & its communication

Why do we discount facts that dispute our opinion?

Originally posted on The Horizons Tracker. This article is part two ongoing series of articles: evidence-based knowledge management and quality of science and science communication.

Despite the Internet being awash with fake news, it has never been easier to check the facts of any belief we hold. We might think therefore, that we would be living in an age of flexible thinking that is easily updated whenever fresh information presents itself.

Alas, that’s generally not the case, with a recent study1 by Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business highlighting how we tend instead to discount the evidence.

“A growing body of evidence suggests that even when individuals are aware of research findings supported by a vast majority of studies, they often choose not to believe them,” the authors explain. “There are reasons for growing alarm about the disbelief of scientific findings across a wide range of professional domains because it seems to reflect a much broader drop in the credibility of academics and scientists.”

Discounted evidence

There is undoubtedly an element of doubt caused by recent findings that dispute the validity and robustness of research. Whether through innocent means or poor research practice, these have undermined public faith in the reliability of research.

This is a problem that doesn’t just affect the general public, for the authors also argue that managers are less likely to consult the latest research for guidance as to the best way to proceed.

The authors argue that the best way to address this challenge is for the academic community to broaden the scope of their research so that it focuses on bigger and more important challenges. If they can focus on the needs of customers, employees, local communities, the environment and society as a whole, it can help to ground the work that they do. Indeed, they could go as far as to co-create research with practitioners in the field rather than taking a hands off approach that simply provides them with data or findings.

Another thread that I’ve touched upon numerous times here in the past, is the way that science is reported and communicated with the public.

“To outsiders, the current publishing model of academic research is likely to appear strange, counter-intuitive and wasteful,” the authors say. “Experts have long recommended publishing findings in outlets that are more accessible.

“Many practitioners, students and members of the general population now get much of their information from sources that were barely in use little more than a decade ago, such as blogs, online videos and various forms of social media. The best opportunities to … get research evidence to the public may lie in these alternative forums.”

This could even include MOOCs, TED talks and other forms of outreach that allow researchers to converse with people in the fora they are familiar with. The authors believe that even strategies such as publishing in more accessible outlets will fail if some of the more natural barriers to persuasion aren’t overcome.

The research industry is clearly getting better at engaging with the public, but it is still perhaps fair to say that more can be done.

Article source: Why Do We Discount Facts That Dispute Our Opinion?

Header image source: geralt on Pixabay, Public Domain.


  1. Rynes, S. L., Colbert, A. E., & O’Boyle, E. H. (2018). When the “best available evidence” doesn’t win: How doubts about science and scientists threaten the future of evidence-based management. Journal of Management. doi 10.1177/0149206318796934
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Adi Gaskell

I'm an old school liberal with a love of self organizing systems. I hold a masters degree in IT, specializing in artificial intelligence and enjoy exploring the edge of organizational behavior. I specialize in finding the many great things that are happening in the world, and helping organizations apply these changes to their own environments. I also blog for some of the biggest sites in the industry, including Forbes, Social Business News, Social Media Today and, whilst also covering the latest trends in the social business world on my own website. I have also delivered talks on the subject for the likes of the NUJ, the Guardian, Stevenage Bioscience and CMI, whilst also appearing on shows such as BBC Radio 5 Live and Calgary Today.

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