Solution Aversion: What It Is And What Are Its Characteristics

Solution aversion

Although the scientific community has a broad consensus on issues such as climate change, the effectiveness and safety of vaccines or that the Earth is round, in the general public this consensus is conspicuous by its absence.

One might think that denying scientific facts is due to mere ignorance or lack of knowledge about the specific issue. However, an approach has been proposed that focuses on the fear of solutions focused on these problems as an explanation for their denial.

This approach is the solution aversion model., which has been approached experimentally with the specific case of climate change and conservatism. Below we will see it in more detail.

What is solution aversion?

Nowadays there are all kinds of topics that, in turn, awaken all kinds of opinions. However, science, from its empirical and objective perspective, has demonstrated the existence of multiple problems that, if a solution or some type of palliative effect is not provided, will worsen. Among these problems we can find the appearance of epidemics, both due to pathogens and bad habits, the increase in murders with firearms or climate change.

Although science can demonstrate the existence of these phenomena by recording facts and performing statistical analyzes when appropriate, there is always someone who questions them. In the specific case of climate change, there are many people, with a conservative ideological profile, who dare to say that conventional science is wrong, that there is no evidence that the planet is really warming and that this has been caused by human action.

Based on this, American researchers Troy Campbell, a marketing specialist, and Aaron C. Key, an expert in psychology and neuroscience, asked themselves: How was it possible that in the face of an event as scientifically proven as climate change there are people who completely deny it?.

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These researchers pointed out that people tend to believe in problems whose solutions we agree with and, in the opposite direction, we do not believe those problems that involve solutions that are very contrary to our way of thinking or that interfere with our lifestyle.

This approach helped them configure a new perspective: the solution aversion model. With this model they have attempted to elucidate a little more why people are so significantly polarized on issues on which the scientific community has a broad consensus.

Fear of the problem or fear of the solution?

Logically, it would seem that the accuracy and veracity of a scientific finding should be independent of whether this finding and its consequences are desirable or not. To explain it simply: if a stone falls on our head, this stone will hurt us. Being hurt is an unwanted consequence of a stone falling on our head. Although we do not want to feel pain, we are not going to question the existence of the stone or doubt that this mineral can fall on our head and hurt us.

However, climate change, the effectiveness of vaccines, the danger of firearms and other issues of broad scientific consensus are not something as simple as an accidentally malicious stone. Are very complex issues whose solution may involve a large mobilization of political, economic and social resources that can come into direct conflict with our lifestyle if we want to solve them.

Research has shown that psychological motivations affect our reasoning. This means that our judgments are not independent of our personal desires and motivations. Even if scientific and objective data is placed before our eyes, if the solution proposed for it collides with our ideology, belief system, opinion or other cognitive, affective and motivational components of our identity, we will be more likely to deny the existence of the problem. .

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An example: climate change and Republicans

It is widely known that There are many Republicans (conservatives) in the United States who deny climate change and its anthropogenic cause.

They are skeptical of this issue, despite the fact that earth sciences have demonstrated, through objective data and measurements of temperature and pollutants in the air, that global warming is indeed occurring. On the other hand, this opinion is not shared by their rivals, the Democrats (liberals), who tend to agree with the scientific community and support the application of measures to alleviate climate change.

The denial of climate change by some and the recognition by others would seem, first of all, to be due to differences with respect to their scientific knowledge. One might think that the level of scientific knowledge among Republicans is lower than that of Democrats, causing the former to have opinions either based on ignorance or on anti-science beliefs. Democrats, on the other hand, would have received more influence and documentation on the issue, basing their opinions on facts.

However, Republicans denying the existence of climate change appears to be motivated, not ignorant.. Nor would it be due to fear of climate change itself. It is not that they are afraid that the sea level is going to rise or that the air is going to become unbreathable, but rather, they are afraid of the solutions that should be applied to reduce this phenomenon, and this is where the idea of the aversion to the solution.

Campbell and Key’s group addressed this question experimentally, reaching the conclusion that, among Republican ranks, denial of climate change is due to a style of motivated cognition. This could explain the fact that despite the existence of documentaries, studies , books and all kinds of resources in which the facts about this issue are presented, these media have not had much impact among conservative minds.

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Republicans tend to be people who are very supportive of the free market and the most aggressive meritocracy.. For them, a person being successful is due solely and exclusively to his or her efforts. This effort materializes in large sums of money and, in many cases, in owning a large company, more concerned with profits than with how much it pollutes.

The problem of climate change for the ideal lifestyle of the Republican citizen is that it implies taking political and economic measures that regulate the free market, something that no big businessman would like. Among these measures would be apply taxes for polluting, greater government economic control and less commercial freedom, increase in the value of automobiles and a ban on selling X amount per year… In short, measures that could reduce companies’ income very significantly.

On the other hand, Democrats have fewer concerns about market regulation and are even in favor of intervening in it. Thus, for the democratic lifestyle, greater regulation of the market is far from posing a serious problem to their lifestyle, which is more in favor of the distribution of goods and doing everything necessary to offer a better future to society, even if that implies economic sacrifices.

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