Cognition, Intelligence and Language Critical Thinking

Episode 137: Objectivity and the Scientific Impotence Excuse

Can science study love? Are we able to scientifically determine what romance is all about? There seem to be times, particularly when people hold strong beliefs, that we just don’t want to hear what scientists have to say. We talk a lot these days about the importance of objectivity, but are people – even scientists – capable of being objective? In this episode I’ll talk about the scientific impotence excuse. Another interesting cognitive bias we seem to carry around with us.


  • Munro, G. (2010). The Scientific Impotence Excuse: Discounting Belief-Threatening Scientific Abstracts. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 40 (3), 579–600.
  • Alfieri, L., Brooks, P.J., Aldrich, N.J. & Tenenbaum, H.R. (2010). Does Discovery Based Instruction Enhance Learning? Journal of Educational Psychology.
  • Walter Cronkite: The Man With America’s Trust
  • Music for this podcast provided by guitarist David Temple



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1 Comment

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    Devil's Advocate

    December 12, 2010

    I just finished reading through this article. The main point is that the exposure to disconfirming evidence about one’s belief encourages the view that science cannot answer the question and that science cannot answer other questions. This finding raises interesting questions about the misconceptions literature in teaching that recommends identifying misconceptions and then working to overcome them methodologically and empirically.

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