Crop Biotech Update

Researchers Identify Factors Affecting Critical Thinking toward GM Foods

April 21, 2021

Researchers from McGill University in Canada conducted a study to determine the role of individuals' expectations and emotions in critical thinking towards socio-scientific issues. They tested the respondents' knowledge of genetically modified foods (GM) and were able to identify the effects of cognition on critical thinking when encountering conflicting information about it.

Two hundred respondents from the United States and Canada were included in the study. They were randomly divided into two groups and were assigned to read a factual text about GM foods. One group read a version that presented the advantages of GM foods followed by the disadvantages, while the second group read a vice-versa version of the text. After reading, the respondents accomplished a survey to capture their feelings while reading. Then they composed an argumentative survey about GM foods which were coded for critical thinking.

The researchers were able to make the following statements based on their study:

  • The belief in complex knowledge predicted less surprise and confusion, but more enjoyment.
  • For the source of knowledge, the belief in the active construction of knowledge predicted less surprise and enjoyment.
  • For justification of knowing, the belief that knowledge should be critically evaluated positively predicted curiosity, and negatively predicted confusion and boredom.
  • The belief that knowledge about GM foods is complex and uncertain positively predicted critical thinking.
  • Confusion and anxiety positively predicted critical thinking, while frustration negatively predicted it.
  • Confusion mediated relations between epistemic beliefs and critical thinking.

The results suggest the complex relations between epistemic cognition, epistemic emotions, and critical thinking. These findings have implications for educational practice and for future research on epistemic cognition and epistemic emotions.

Read the full study in Frontiers in Education.

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