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Dr Chris Noone, NUI Galway, Psychology Matters Day.
We live in a democracy. For this democracy to work, we are forced to trust that our representatives can make informed decisions based on information that is relevant and accurate. We must also play our own role in this democracy by voting for our representatives and in referendums. When deciding how to vote, how can we be sure that the information we use to guide our decisions is truthful? Scientists rely on the scientific method as a transparent means of establishing a degree of certainty regarding the truth of a situation. The inclusion of scientific evidence in public debate has had numerous societal benefits, including lowering smoking rates, improving sanitation and, generally, extending life in many countries. However, the use of pseudoscientific claims and flat-out denial of scientific evidence has hindered progress, with climate change being an example of this.
The use of psychological evidence in public debate has become more prominent in recent decades. With increased access to scientific papers through the internet and the rapid sharing of information through social media, members of the public are exposed to more scientific evidence than ever before. This talk will examine the use of psychological evidence in two of the most high-profile recent political campaigns in Ireland and how to evaluate the quality of evidence from psychological science when it is presented in a public debate.