skip to content

Cambridge Social Decision-Making Lab

Department of Psychology

The Gateway Belief Model (van der Linden et al., 2015; 2019) is a dual-process theory of attitude change. The model is premised on the principle that perceived (scientific) consensus is a central belief within a larger network of cognitive and affective judgments about contested issues. Because people frequently misperceive group-consensus, perceptions of the consensus can be 'debiased' by conveying descriptive norms (e.g., "97% of scientists have concluded that climate change is happening"). The model features a two-stage mediational process where the first stage is the main effect on perceived scientific consensus and the second stage includes downstream direct and indirect effects on private attitudes and policy-support (van der Linden, 2021).




It is important to note that in the model, the variables represent pre-post difference scores (belief updating) conditional on experimental assignment (these paths are not always displayed to reduce visual complexity). So a pre-post change (treatment vs. control) in perceived scientific consensus is expected to lead to subsequent (smaller) changes in private attitudes which in turn predict changes in support for public action.

The GBM has been extensively applied in the context of climate change but also in other contexts, including vaccine hesitancy, GMO's, and Brexit. We are currently interested in applying the GBM in new domains, examining the role of ideology and other moderators, field experiments using the GBM, as well as novel longitudinal studes.


If you'd like to learn more, feel free to read our SPSP blog.


For a list of publications by topic, please see the list below:


Main GBM studies

Climate Change


COVID-19 and Vaccines




Motivated Reasoning and Reactance

  • van der Linden, S., Cook, J., Maertens, R., Goldberg, M. H., Kerr, J. R., Lewandowsky, S., … Leiserowitz, A. (2021). Do Climate Change Consensus Messages Cause Reactance? A Comment on Chinn and Hart (2021).


The Role of Social Consensus


Longitudinal studies and effects over time

        ---> Replication Data


Geography and Spatial Variation in Consensus Beliefs


How to communicate the scientific consensus


Anchoring Effects and Other Critiques


For a complete overview of all existing research (> 40 papers) on the GBM, please visit John Cook's excellent blog on the GBM consensus as well as this meta-analyis which found an average effect of consensus on climate attitudes (g = 0.09) and this pre-registered meta-analysis in Psychological Science which has reported an average effect of g = 0.55 on perceived consensus and g = 0.12 on personal attitudes across domains.