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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton 2020

2. Science understanding between scientific literacy and trust: contributions from psychological and educational research

Friederike Hendriks and Dorothe Kienhues


In this article, we describe how laypeople are able to engage with science and scientific issues in spite of their bounded understanding (limited relevant background knowledge about science and about how science works). Drawing on psychological and related research, we describe that laypeople engage with science and scientific issues, either by aiming to gain available skills and knowledge to understand scientific information (scientific literacy), or by selectively and considerately placing trust in science or scientific experts. While we argue that most of such reasoning about scientific evidence and arguments can be called reasonable and expedient, we also identify some reasons why understanding might fail, for example because certain pitfalls of science communication might foster misinformation. In our conclusion, we briefly provide some ways in which science communication might protect against fostering laypeople’s flawed reasoning.

© 2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston