What determines whether or not people believe science?
Dr. Eryn Newman of The Australian National University (ANU) is reporting that the way that scientific research is presented has the most impact on whether or not people believe it. According to the investigation, the presentation of a scientific study is more influential on the audience than the new discovery itself.
“When people are assessing the credibility of information, most of the time people are making a judgement based on how something feels,” said Dr. Newman.
“Our results showed that when the sound quality was poor, the participants thought the researcher wasn’t as intelligent, they didn’t like them as much and found their research less important.”
The study participants were shown video clips of scientists presenting research at conferences. One group of participants heard the video recordings in high-quality audio, while another group heard the same recordings with poor-quality sounds.
When the participants evaluated the researchers and their work, individuals who had heard the poor quality audio consistently rated the experts as being less intelligent and the studies as being less important.
The researchers conducted a second phase of the trial in which video clips of world-renowned scientists were used. Unlike the first phase of the experiment, this time the videos included introductions of the scientists along with their qualifications and institutional affiliations.
“It made no difference,”said Dr. Newman.”As soon as we reduced the audio quality, all of a sudden the scientists and their research lost credibility.”
The findings of this analysis suggest that researchers need to reconsider the delivery of their studies. Dr. Newman pointed out that this is especially important in a time when authentic scientific facts are forced to compete with fake news.
“Another recent study showed false information travels six times faster than real information on Twitter,” she said. “Our results show that it’s not just about who you are and what you are saying, it’s about how your work is presented.”
Dr. Newman’s study is published in the journal Science Communication.