Jan. 15 (UPI) -- Opponents of genetically modified foods overrate their knowledge of the subject, according to a new survey.
Researchers surveyed several thousand Americans and Europeans about their opinion of genetically modified foods. They also asked respondents to rate their knowledge of the subject. Participants were quizzed on their knowledge of sciences, genetics and GMO foods.
More than 90 percent of the survey's participants admitted some level of opposition to genetically modified foods. Those who reported strong opposition were more likely to claim expertise on the subject of GMO foods. The quiz results showed otherwise.
The higher participants rated their knowledge, the more likely they were to answer the true-or-false questions incorrectly.
Researchers published their survey findings in the journal Nature Human Behavior.
"This result is perverse, but is consistent with previous research on the psychology of extremism," Phil Fernbach, a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, said in a news release. "Extreme views often stem from people feeling they understand complex topics better than they do."
Those most antagonistic toward GMO foods could stand to learn the most, but unfortunately, people with closed minds are less likely to acquire new information.
"Our findings suggest that changing peoples' minds first requires them to appreciate what they don't know," said Nicholas Light, a doctoral candidate at Colorado's Leeds School of Business. "Without this first step, educational interventions might not work very well to bring people in line with the scientific consensus."
When scientists replicated their survey and quiz for the topics of climate change and gene therapy, they found a similar pattern among people highly critical of gene therapy. Climate change opinions weren't closely correlated with knowledge or lack-there-of. Researchers think the politicization of climate change has ensured people's opinions are more closely tied to political affiliation.