Study finds extreme GM food critics overestimate their knowledge

A newly published study has found that opponents of genetically modified (GM) foods don't know as much about the topic as they think they do. As part of their work, researchers asked participants their thoughts on the existence of GM foods, as well as how much they know about the topic. The participants were also quizzed to determine their actual knowledge on the topic, and the results aren't terribly shocking.

As many people may have guessed, individuals who were most opposed to genetically modified foods also believed they knew the most about the topic, at least compared to other study participants. However, when quizzed on their actual knowledge about GM foods, these confident individuals had lower scores than others, indicating a strong negative attitude may be strongly associated with ignorance about the topic.

More than 2,000 European and American adults were questioned as part of the survey, which involved researchers from four universities. The findings point toward the link between holding extreme views and an overconfidence in one's knowledge of the subject.

Unfortunately, an individual who believes they are already knowledgeable about a topic may be less likely to seek out information about it, resulting in prolonged ignorance that feeds into extremist views — ones they're likely to retain in the absence of actual understanding about the topic.

That's a difficult reality to overcome, one that could also impact other divisive topics. The researchers also explored the relationship between ignorance and extreme views in relation to gene therapy, but not climate change. That's a surprising result, but one the researchers speculate may be due to the topic's increased association with certain political groups.