Person- and Situation-Specific Factors in Discounting Science via Scientific Impotence Excuses


  • Tom Rosman
  • Martin Kerwer
  • Anita Chasiotis
  • Oliver Wedderhoff


Munro (2010, found that individuals, when confronted with belief-disconfirming scientific evidence, resist this information by concluding that the topic at hand is not amenable to scientific investigation—a scientific impotence excuse. We strived to replicate this finding and to extend this work by analyzing other factors that might lead to scientific impotence excuses. As a person-specific factor, we analyzed the role of epistemic beliefs, and as a situational factor, we focused on the contradictoriness of the evidence at hand. Three sets of hypotheses were preregistered. In an experimental 2 × 3 online study drawing on a general population sample of N = 901 participants, we first assessed our participants’ prior beliefs on the effects of acupuncture versus massaging (pro acupuncture vs. no opinion). One experimental group then read fictitious empirical evidence claiming superiority of acupuncture, another group read evidence speaking against acupuncture, and a third group read conflicting evidence (i.e., a mix of pro- and contra-findings). Scientific impotence excuses were measured by a newly developed questionnaire. Our first hypothesis, which suggested that participants believing in the superiority of acupuncture would make stronger scientific impotence excuses when confronted with belief-disconfirming findings, was confirmed. A second hypothesis suggested that scientific impotence excuses would be stronger when individuals were confronted with evidence exhibiting a “nature” that contradicts their topic-specific epistemic beliefs. This hypothesis was partially supported. A third hypothesis suggested that individuals confronted with conflicting evidence would make stronger scientific impotence excuses, and this was again confirmed. Implications for theory and practice are discussed.