Identity-protective Cognition Thesis (“ICT”)—sees a particular recurring form of group conflict as disabling the capacities that individuals have to make sense of decision-relevant science: when policy-relevant facts become identified as symbols of membership in and loyalty to affinity groups that figure in important ways in individuals’ lives, they will be motivated to engage empirical evidence and other information in a manner that more reliably connects their beliefs to the positions that pre- dominate in their particular groups than to the positions that are best supported by the evidence.
…improving public understanding of science and propagating critical reasoning skills—while immensely important, both intrinsically and practically cannot be expected to dissipate persistent public conflict over decision-relevant science. Only removing the source of the motivation to process scientific evidence in an identity-protective fashion can. The conditions that generate symbolic associations between positions on risk and like facts, on the one hand, and cultural identities, on the other, must be neutralized in order to assure that citizens make use of their capacity for science comprehension.
The image shows how relabeling numbers with a political topic changes how people interpret them. The difference between the top/bottom graphs indicate how much people let their political views change how they interpreted identical numbers.