Tuesday, November 1, 2022

U.S. freshmen hold systematically incorrect beliefs about the relationship between majors and occupations; students appear to stereotype majors, greatly exaggerating the likelihood that they lead to their most distinctive jobs

What Jobs Come to Mind? Stereotypes about Fields of Study. John J. Conlon, Dev Patel. October 30, 2022. https://johnjconlon17.github.io/website/Conlon_Patel_stereotypes.pdf

Abstract: How do students form beliefs about how their future career will depend on their choice of college major? Using both nationally representative survey data and surveys that we administered among undergraduates at the Ohio State University, we document that U.S. freshmen hold systematically incorrect beliefs about the relationship between majors and occupations. Students appear to stereotype majors, greatly exaggerating the likelihood that they lead to their most distinctive jobs (e.g., counselor for psychology, journalist for journalism, teacher for education). A stylized model of major choice suggests that stereotyping boosts demand for “risky” majors: ones with rare stereotypical careers and low-paying alternative jobs. In a field experiment among the same Ohio State sample, providing statistical information on career frequencies to first-year college students has significant effects on their intended majors (and, less precisely, on their choices of which classes to enroll in), with larger effects on students considering risky majors. Finally, we present a model of belief formation in which stereotyping arises as a product of associative memory. The same model predicts—and the survey data confirm—that students also overestimate rare non-stereotypical careers and careers that are concentrated within particular majors. The model also generates predictions regarding role model effects, with students exaggerating the frequency of career-major combinations held by people they are personally close to.

IQ was not strongly related to climate change attitudes; this seems surprising to the authors because in acrimonious debates both sides accuse the other of ignorance

Correlates of belief in climate change: Demographics, ideology and belief systems. Adrian Furnham, Charlotte Robinson. Acta Psychologica, Volume 230, October 2022, 103775. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.actpsy.2022.103775

Abstract: This paper reports on two studies that examine correlates of attitudes to climate change (ACC). In the first study, five hundred participants completed five questionnaires and an intelligence test as well as two related measures of ACC. Using correlations and regressions we examined the relationship between ACC and demography (gender, age, education), ideology (political and religious beliefs), intelligence, self-beliefs, Belief in a Just World and the endorsement of Conspiracy Theories. One climate change questionnaire factored into three factors labelled Impact, Fatalism, and Personal action. The most consistent finding was that political opinions were most strongly related to climate change beliefs: more conservative thinkers denied that individuals could do anything. In the second study, also with 500 participants, we asked one question concerning how seriously they took the issue of global warming. Again, we examined the relationship with this response and the participants' demography, ideology and self-ratings. Political beliefs primarily were related to global warming concerns, as in the first study. Results are discussed in terms of climate change as an ideology and the possible changing of these beliefs. Limitations, like the representativeness of the sample and the single-item measure in the second study are acknowledged.

Keywords: Climate changeIdeologyBeliefsConspiracy theories

Surprisingly IQ was not strongly related to ACC, except the second factor concerning fatalistic beliefs. The IQ score was significantly correlated with other scores such as education, religious beliefs and the rejection of CTs, though it was not closely related to ACC. This is surprising because in acrimonious debates both sides accuse the other of ignorance.

4. General discussion

As is apparent from public demonstrations, social media messages and the mass media, ACC is an increasing hot topic and one which attracts a great deal of attention. Whilst these studies did not use fully representative samples, they did indicate that most people tend to the activist end of the ACC spectrum: that is the accept climate change and see it as predominantly “man-made”. Nevertheless, there is still and sufficient spread of beliefs to investigate our hypotheses.

The results from both studies suggested that gender, age, education and religious beliefs were not strongly associated with ACC but clearly demonstrate the relationship between political beliefs and ACC. Despite using three different measures of ACC in the two studies, the results showed that of all the variables we considered by far the most powerful and consistent was political beliefs. Those rated themselves as more conservative were more likely to be climate sceptics. Whilst this result would not surprise many, perhaps what is most interesting is the power of this single variable over and above the many we measured. By and large these results concur with other related studies in different countries (Krange et al., 2019McCright & Dunlap, 2011).

In both studies we used both correlational and regression analyses. Whilst the correlations indicated many variables associated ACC the regressions gave a clearer picture identifying very clearly the role of political beliefs.

Climate change is clearly more an ideological issue than anything else. Liberal as opposed to politically conservative people accept the idea that climate change is real and primarily man made whilst conservatives reject this view. As a consequence, the former advocate a range of radical changes in society while the latter strongly reject them. Perhaps it is this factor that accounts for the finding: that is, because the “solutions” to climate change are so radical, conservatives find it easiest to reject the possible cause. This hypothesis may be tested by asking people about the beliefs in the efficacy and indeed morality of climate change interventions.

Douglas and Sutton (2015) suggest that ACC deniers may be considered conspiracy theorists. They suggest that climate conspiracy theorists believe that climate scientists and politicians are distorting or hijacking the science for their own agenda. Moreover, more than the many other conspiracy theories, those concerning climate change seem more politically loaded, dividing opinion across the left-right continuum.

It is interesting in the first study that the measure of CT, used in many other studies (Furnham, 2022), did not correlate significantly with two factors and was significant in only one regression. This may be because there is a difference between climate change cynics and sceptics; the former of which are likely to embrace a wide range of theories while the latter are very specific. There are also a number of spokespeople for the sceptic position that are clearly not conspiracy thinkers or activists.

These results raise issues about the change of ACC beliefs. There are a number of individuals and organisations that hope to convert people to their cause as regards ACC. They usually do so by the presentation of data of varying quality and complexity. They face a very similar problem to those eager to reduce CTs. Cichocka (2020) argued that three broad psychological needs underlie conspiracy beliefs: the need to understand the world, to feel safe, and to belong as well as feel positive about oneself and one's social groups. She argues that we should not abandon other methods of correcting misinformation and stemming its spread. Debunking is extremely difficult, but ‘Prebunking’ is more effective and involves warning people that they might encounter misinformation before they accept it. It would appear that there are still relatively few studies on the efficacy of methods to modify ACC.

Given these findings it would be interesting to trace politicians in various countries assertions about climate change and the way these have changed over time. It is now 60 years since Carson's (1962) famous popular book Silent Spring was published and which is still quoted by both sides in the argument.

Like all others this study had limitations. Given the relevance of ideology, particularly political beliefs, it would have been desirable to have explored in much more detail a participants' political beliefs, knowledge and past political behaviour, like voting, party membership and active participation in campaigns. However, there is evidence that this one item personal rating is consistently and logically related to other belief systems (Furnham & Robinson, 2021). The mean score (and standard deviation) in both samples was very similar and indicated most of these younger and better educated people tended to be more politically liberal than conservative.

It would also be of interest to explore knowledge of, as well as attitudes to, climate change: that is what facts and data people know or choose to quote on these issues. This would no doubt be related to their media preferences and consumption. Our sample was clearly not representative of a general (European) population, being younger and better educated. They tended to be more left-wing/liberal, with scores being around 6 out of 8 on this dimension, with an SD of around 2. It would be interesting given the results to seek out larger groups from different ends of the political spectrum, though it is not clear if the results would be much different.

In conclusion this study underlined the role of political beliefs in climate change beliefs (Conversi & Hau, 2021). Despite examining a wide range of other demographic, ideological and belief factor it seems that political persuasion is by far the major correlate of ACC. This provides useful information for those trying to change the publics ACC. On the other hand, it is important to acknowledge the nature of the sample and the measures we used to conclude that political beliefs are necessarily the major determinant of all aspects of a person's ACC.


Findings suggest that highly altruistic individuals believe that others deserve help regardless of their potential moral shortcomings

Beliefs about Humanity, not Higher Power, Predict Extraordinary Altruism. P. Amormino et al. Journal of Research in Personality, October 31 2022, 104313. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrp.2022.104313

Abstract: Using a rare sample of altruistic kidney donors (n = 56, each of whom had donated a kidney to a stranger) and demographically similar controls (n = 75), we investigated how beliefs about human nature correspond to extraordinary altruism. Extraordinary altruists were less likely than controls to believe that humans can be truly evil. Results persisted after controlling for trait empathy and religiosity. Belief in pure good was not associated with extraordinary altruism. We found no differences in the religiosity and spirituality of extraordinary altruists compared to controls. Findings suggest that highly altruistic individuals believe that others deserve help regardless of their potential moral shortcomings. Results provide preliminary evidence that lower levels of cynicism motivate costly, non-normative altruistic for strangers.