Disturbing, however, was the fact that people in this study were more likely to accept ESP if they were told scientists rejected it rather than accepted it. They took the opposite opinion of the scientific community. What process is at work here? Are they reflexively rejecting authority? Do they assume that scientists are closed-minded about the paranormal if they reject it, but if they accept it does that trigger some natural skepticism?
Regardless of the explanation, it seems that the natural instinct is the opposite of what it should be.
It’s easy to become depressed by this trifecta of studies, but they really don’t paint a picture different than what we already knew – people believe stories over science and come to their conclusions mostly for evolved emotional, rather than dry rational, reasons. These studies are helpful because they illuminate the details and hopefully will provide some guidance as we continue to search for strategies to promote science and reason.