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Title: Influence of views about the nature of science in decision-making about socio-scientific and pseudo-scientific issues
Author: Greaves-Fernandez, Nahieli
ISNI:       0000 0004 2698 5602
Awarding Body: University of York
Current Institution: University of York
Date of Award: 2010
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The purpose of this study was determine which ideas about the nature of science (NOS) were used by students to make decisions regarding a variety of contexts. 128 undergraduates, enrolled in a Science and Society course, were asked to decide what action they would take—both at the start and the end of the course— in a situation about pseudoscientific, socioscientific issues (SSI), and non-controversial scientific issues, about which students had differing degrees of familiarity. At the same time, students’ views of the NOS were also assessed. Generally speaking, students’ views were naïve and—together with their decision-making processes—did not improve after the course. In all cases, familiarity with and prior knowledge of the issue influenced how students justified their decisions. In pseudoscientific scenarios, when the issue (quantum medicine) was mostly unknown to students, many students appeared to be more open to pseudoscientific ideas and to distrust scientists, in contrast with more familiar issues (Aids and weight-loss pills). All students who used ideas of the NOS (endorsement/rejection by the research, appeal to the authority of scientists, caution due to the lack of evidence) to justify their decisions in these kinds of scenarios rejected pseudoscientific arguments. In the case of SSI scenarios, many students used ideas of the NOS (caution due to the lack of evidence) to make their decision, even though personal experience (mobile phones) and risk/benefit analysis (genetic modification for the purposes of curing disease) also played a preponderant role. In non-controversial scientific issues (smoking, diet and self-medication) students barely used ideas of the NOS: personal tastes and preferences were the most widely used criterion. These results contrast with previous research in which ideas of the NOS were not found to play an important role in decision-making. They also suggest that ideas about the NOS are useful for the decision-making process and depend to some extent on the context.
Supervisor: Bennett, Judith Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available