Southeastern Section - 67th Annual Meeting - 2018

Paper No. 10-6
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM


HURDING-JONES, Holly and FORCINO, Frank L., Geosciences and Natural Resources Department, Western Carolina University, 331 Stillwell Building, Cullowhee, NC 28723

As distrust of science increases in society, it is important to determine whether people reject scientific concepts and or are merely ignorant of them. Here, we compare the general public’s knowledge of geology to their beliefs in pseudoscientific properties of gems and crystals. Popular claims from those who promote crystal pseudoscience include that gemstones are alive, can be psychically therapeutic, and can even cure physical ailments. These beliefs can lead to injury or death if people forego real medical treatment.

Using Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk), we surveyed 194 participants about their geology knowledge and their knowledge, belief, and practice of the pseudoscience of crystal healing and gem qualities. MTurk is an online crowdsourcing website wherein registered workers complete tasks for pay. The population of MTurk workers is more diverse than that of a typical university. The survey contained seven multiple choice items about geology knowledge and 19 likert-type items about pseudoscientific properties and abilities. We paid each worker $2.00 to complete the survey.

Participants averaged 4.3 out of 7 correct responses for the geology content items. Thirteen participants answered all 7 correctly, and one answered none of the 7 correctly. Forty-one out of 194 participants selected an average of “somewhat agree” or “strongly agree” on the belief in pseudoscientific properties of gems and crystals survey, and 149 out of 194 participants selected an average of “somewhat disagree” or “strongly disagree”. Participants that believe in pseudoscientific properties averaged 3.5 out of 7 geology content items correct. Participants that do not believe in pseudoscientific properties averaged 4.5 out of 7. Using a linear regression, the belief in pseudoscientific properties of gems and crystals was significantly dependent upon geology content knowledge (r2 = 0.14; p < 0.001). Thus, a better understanding of Earth processes leads to a lower likelihood of belief in pseudoscientific ideas about gems and crystals. As scientists and educators, we should continue to develop better ways of educating K12 students, as well as the general public, about Earth processes, to eliminate pseudoscientific beliefs and improve Earth science literacy.