The contingency illusion bias as a potential driver of science denial

Justin Sulik, Robert Ross, Ryan Mckay

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contributionpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
67 Downloads (Pure)


Science denial is a pressing social problem, contributing to inactivity in the face of climate change, or to a resurgence in outbreaks of preventable diseases. Cognitive factors are a significant driver of science denial, in addition to social factors such as political ideology. Biases pertaining to judgments of contingency (i.e., inferring causal relationships where none exist) have been associated with misbeliefs, such as belief in the paranormal and conspiracy theories. Here, we examine whether contingency biases likewise predict science denial. We show that (a) various tasks used to study relevant biases do in fact load on a single latent ‘contingency illusion’ factor; (b) this contingency illusion bias is associated with increased science denial; (c) the contingency illusion bias mediates the relationship between intuitive (vs. analytic) cognitive style and science denial; and (d) this holds even when accounting for political ideology.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings for the 42nd Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society
Place of PublicationSeattle
PublisherCognitive Science Society
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 2020
EventAnnual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (42nd : 2020) - Virtual
Duration: 29 Jul 20201 Aug 2020


ConferenceAnnual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (42nd : 2020)

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2020. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • science denial
  • individual differences
  • causal illusion
  • misbelief
  • analytic style


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