PoS seminar 6.9. with Carlo Martini

At the next Perspectives on Science seminar on Monday 6.9., Carlo Martini (Vita-Salute San Raffaele University) will give a presentation titled “An empirical, hands-on approach to the demarcation problem: studying science disinformation with experiments”. The seminar takes place in Zoom from 2 to 4 pm.

Perspectives on Science is a weekly research seminar which brings together experts from science studies and philosophy of science. It is organized by TINT – Centre for Philosophy of Social Science at the University of Helsinki. More information about the seminar here.

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The problem of demarcation has long been treated as a theoretical problem related to the logic or methodology of science. In this presentation I argue that the problem of demarcation ought to be treated as an empirical and practical issue relating to science and its methods of seeking the truth. With that move, we can connect very tightly the problem of demarcation with the problem of scientific disinformation. The second part of the presentation will focus on disinformation and how to tackle it in ecological contexts. Several types of interventions have been proposed to prevent the proliferation of false information online, where most of the spreading takes place. A recently proposed but not yet tested strategy to help online users recognise false content is to follow the techniques of professional fact checkers, such as looking for information on other websites (lateral reading) and looking beyond the first results suggested by search engines (click restraint).

In two preregistered online experiments (N = 5387), we simulated a social-media environment and set-out two interventions, one in the form of a pop-up meant to induce participants to follow such techniques, the other based on monetary incentive. In Experiment 1, we compared these interventions to a control condition. In Experiment 2 another condition was added to test the joint impact of the pop-up and the monetary incentive. We measured participants’ ability to identify whether presented scientific information was scientifically (in)valid.

Results revealed that while monetary incentives were overall more effective in increasing accuracy, the pop-up also contributed when the post originated from an unknown source (and participants could rely less on prior information). Additional analysis on participants’ search style based on both self-report responses and objectively measured behaviour revealed that the pop-up increased the use of fact-checking strategies, and that these in turn increased accuracy. Study 2 also clarified that the pop-up and the incentive did not interfere with each other, but rather acted complementarily, suggesting that attention and literacy interventions can be designed in synergy.

Author bio:

Carlo Martini is Associate Professor of Philosophy in the Faculty of Philosophy at Vita-Salute San Raffaele University (UniSR). His primary research interests are in philosophy of the social sciences and social epistemology. He works on the role of expertise in knowledge transfer from science to policy, on scientific disinformation and public trust in scientific experts. After completing his Ph.D. in Philosophy and Economics at the Tilburg Centre for Logic and Philosophy of Science, he held various positions at the University of Bayreuth and the University of Helsinki. While at the University of Helsinki, he was awarded a Finnish Cultural Academy grant to study the transfer of knowledge from science to policy makers, through expertise and argumentation. He is currently leader of the work package Behavioral Tools for Building Trust in the H2020 Project Peritia (Policy Expertise and Trust), and work package leader in the project From Models to Decisions, funded with a PRIN grant by the Italian Ministry for University, Education and Research (MIUR).