A new study in the Journal of Risk Research examines how people think about science and how they align it with their own values. The study found that the public will think a scientific expert is credible, if what that expert is saying aligns with that they already believe. "In the study, subjects with individualistic values were over 70 percentage points less likely than ones with egalitarian values to identify the scientist as an expert if he was depicted as describing climate change as an established risk," says an NSF release on the study. "Likewise, egalitarian subjects were over 50 percentage points less likely than individualistic ones to see the scientist as an expert if he was described as believing evidence on climate change is unsettled." Understanding these dynamics could help researchers understand why scientific consensus doesn't always settle policy debates, NSF says. George Washington University law professor Donald Braman, and one of the study's authors, says trying increase "trust in scientists" isn't going to solve the problem. "To make sure people form unbiased perceptions of what scientists are discovering, it is necessary to use communication strategies that reduce the likelihood that citizens of diverse values will find scientific findings threatening to their cultural commitments," he says.
HT: Discover's Intersection blog