Science of Science Communication

In October 2014, as part of the celebration of its 20th anniversary, the Annenberg Public Policy Center announced it would open a new area of study, the Science of Science Communication, to investigate how scientific evidence can be more effectively conveyed to the public. This area will look at the failure to dispel public controversy over such issues as climate change, vaccinations, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) despite the presence of valid, compelling and widely accessible scientific evidence. “There’s a persistent gap between expert knowledge of scientific issues and public perception on myriad issues,” APPC director Kathleen Hall Jamieson said. “Through empirical testing, we will examine ways to close this gap and separate the issues in communicating science from the evidence that is being presented.” She said APPC also will study such issues as the self-correcting nature of science, and whether corrections and retractions contribute to a perception that the science itself is flawed. This area builds on past APPC projects such as the dissemination of media guidelines for suicide coverage, and the Annenberg Health Communication wiki, a site to help professional health communicators make better use of state-of-the-art social science.

Culturally antagonistic memes and the Zika virus: an experimental test

This paper examines a remedy for a defect in existing accounts of public risk perceptions. The accounts in question feature two dynamics: the affect heuristic, which emphasizes the impact of visceral feelings on information processing; and the cultural cognition thesis, which describes the tendency of individuals to form beliefs that reflect and reinforce their group commitments.

    Overcoming ‘End-Point Bias’: Liberals, Fox News and Arctic Sea Ice Trends

    Even liberals and moderates who are more likely than conservatives to be suspicious of Fox News can be influenced by a misleading article on about Arctic sea ice trends, researchers found. But “end-point” and ideological bias can be overcome by actively engaging the audience in evaluating well-presented scientific information.

    Cross-pressuring conservative Catholics? Effects of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the U.S. public opinion on climate change

    In an encyclical released in June of 2015, Pope Francis cast the need to address climate change as a moral imperative. Using nationally-representative surveys with supplemental samples of Catholics, we investigate changes in the U.S. public’s post-encyclical attitudes about climate change and the Catholic pontiff.