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Communicating expert consensus increases personal support for COVID-19 mitigation policies.

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The Gateway Belief Model (GBM) places perception of a scientific consensus as a key "gateway cognition" with cascading effects on personal beliefs, concern, and ultimately support for public policies. However, few studies seeking to evaluate and extend the model have followed the specification and design of the GBM as originally outlined. We present a more complete test of the theoretical model in a novel domain: the COVID-19 pandemic. In a large multi-country correlational study (N = 7,206) we report that, as hypothesized by the model, perceptions of scientific consensus regarding the threat of COVID-19 predict personal attitudes toward threat and worry over the virus, which are in turn positively associated with support for mitigation policies. We also find causal support for the model in a large pre-registered survey experiment (N = 1,856): experimentally induced increases in perceived consensus have an indirect effect on changes in policy support mediated via changes in personal agreement with the consensus. Implications for the role of expert consensus in science communication are discussed.


Funder: Science Foundation Ireland


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Journal of applied social psychology

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