Values is the Determinant in Shaping Attitudes
Posted by Axl Hu Mengda, 21042303
Would you support a modern scientific research which involves killing? Some scholars argued that increase in scientific knowledge would lead to more support for such controversial scientific researches. However, according to the study by Ho, Brossard and Scheufele in 2008, the public has more complex cognitive processing.
Stem cells can be programmed to treat various diseases such as AIDS, diabetes, but involving the destruction of human embryos makes the stem cell research extremely controversial in the USA, for religious conservatives equate this act to taking the life of a human being.
In that context, Ho, Brossard and Scheufele tried to determine to what extent public attitude towards stem cell research was influence by value, mass media and scientific knowledge. They designed a longitudinal, multi-wave method of collection to get the data from a same group of respondents in the USA between 2002 and 2005.
Surprisingly, the result of their study indicated that scientific knowledge played an almost negligible role in shaping attitudes toward stem cell research, while individuals tended to rely more on their values, such as religious beliefs, ideological predisposition (Liberal or Conservative) when making a judgments about the stem cell research.
Although scientific knowledge or information provided by mass media have moderate influence to support for stem cell research, individual’s value also play a dominant role through the knowledge-attitude process. For highly religious and conservative respondents, the influence of knowledge on support for the stem cell research is significantly weaker than for those who with low religiosity and liberal value. Additionally, respondents who believe that scientists will make decisions are more likely to accept the new scientific knowledge and to form attitudes based on new knowledge.
So, the study gives a profound point for science communication study that providing sufficient knowledge and relevant information might have impact on public attitude, while understanding public’s value is the key to get the attitude or support that we want.
Personally, I think this is a perfect explanation for that Chinese ‘One-child Policy’ is not as controversial in China as in the USA. Besides the demographic knowledge that Chinese government keeps beating into public’s heads, cost of having babies, equality between sexes, decrease of physical labour play more important roles in changing and altering public traditional value. Chinese government also sets out to change people’s value by all means, to make the policy more acceptable for billions of couples. Very small fraction of couples in China think the policy is an offence to their freedom, while Americans government often regards it as a human right abuse.
Apparently, in some cases, the conflict of values would be harsh when we “get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own”, but that’s the only “secret of success”. (Henry Ford, 1937)
Ho, SS, Brossard, D and Scheufele, DA. 2008. Effects of value predispositions, mass media used, and knowledge on public attitudes towards embryonic stem cell research. International Journal of Public Opinion Research 20: 171- 192.