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Ingredients   for   Misinformation A Look at the Barriers Between Scientific Knowledge and Public Perception Bob Conrad, M...
Background
Background  / Findings <ul><li>Public respects science </li></ul><ul><li>Public is scientifically illiterate </li></ul><ul...
Scientists <ul><li>Technical jargon encouraged </li></ul><ul><li>Research process </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Time consuming </l...
Scientists <ul><li>Cornell study: transgenic corn / pollen toxic to butterfly larvae  </li></ul><ul><li>Small lab experime...
Scientists <ul><li>Discouraged from going public </li></ul><ul><li>May be punished for doing so </li></ul>
Journalists <ul><li>Strive for objectivity, accuracy, fairness </li></ul><ul><li>Encumbered by journalistic processes </li...
Views of News Media by Scientists and Journalists <ul><li>Journalists: </li></ul><ul><li>Lack understanding of science </l...
Additional Studies <ul><li>Journalists: </li></ul><ul><li>Perceived knowledge of biotech. greater than actual knowledge </...
Perceptual Biases <ul><li>Soc. Psych.  </li></ul><ul><li>Perceptions can be swayed by </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Racial stereot...
Perceptual Biases <ul><li>Affecting journalists’ perceptions </li></ul><ul><li>The eyewitness fallacy </li></ul><ul><li>Un...
Perceptual Biases <ul><li>Media can influence public agendas and public perceptions </li></ul><ul><li>Audiences perceive m...
Perceptual Biases <ul><li>Cognitive Dissonance </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Dissonance occurs whenever a person simultaneously ho...
Perceptual Biases <ul><li>Examples: </li></ul><ul><li>Food irradiation </li></ul><ul><li>Negative information reigns </li>...
Perceptual Biases <ul><li>Role of technology </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Fast development </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Paralysis...
Conclusions <ul><li>Misunderstanding of science leads to unintentional / intentional hoodwinking </li></ul><ul><li>Uncerta...
Future Research <ul><li>Role of education </li></ul><ul><li>Effects on policy/research funding </li></ul><ul><li>Effects o...
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Ingredients for Misinformation

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This is a presentation given by Bob Conrad, MA, APR, to the Educator's Academy at the 2006 Public Relations Society of America international conference in Salt Lake City.

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Ingredients for Misinformation

  1. 1. Ingredients for Misinformation A Look at the Barriers Between Scientific Knowledge and Public Perception Bob Conrad, MA, APR bob- [email_address] – (775) 224-2605 PRSA Educator’s Academy, November 11, 2006 © 2006
  2. 2. Background
  3. 3. Background / Findings <ul><li>Public respects science </li></ul><ul><li>Public is scientifically illiterate </li></ul><ul><li>Public easily manipulated by misinformation </li></ul>
  4. 4. Scientists <ul><li>Technical jargon encouraged </li></ul><ul><li>Research process </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Time consuming </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Subject to peer review </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Avoids broad conclusions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Findings contradictory </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Potential for abuse </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Process at odds with journalistic realities </li></ul>
  5. 5. Scientists <ul><li>Cornell study: transgenic corn / pollen toxic to butterfly larvae </li></ul><ul><li>Small lab experiment covered widely in media </li></ul><ul><li>Six follow-up studies found results negligible </li></ul><ul><li>Enhanced misperceptions / fear of biotechnology </li></ul>Example: Monarch butterfly
  6. 6. Scientists <ul><li>Discouraged from going public </li></ul><ul><li>May be punished for doing so </li></ul>
  7. 7. Journalists <ul><li>Strive for objectivity, accuracy, fairness </li></ul><ul><li>Encumbered by journalistic processes </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Deadlines </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Advertising / $$$ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Eyewitness descriptions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Rely on 2 nd or 3 rd party recollections </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Process doesn’t always guard against bias </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Demographics </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Education </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Views of News Media by Scientists and Journalists <ul><li>Journalists: </li></ul><ul><li>Lack understanding of science </li></ul><ul><li>Are interested in sales </li></ul><ul><li>Focus on trends </li></ul><ul><li>Seek the sensational </li></ul><ul><li>Want instant answers </li></ul><ul><li>Are ignorant of the scientific process </li></ul><ul><li>Cannot interpret scientific results </li></ul><ul><li>Exaggerate risks </li></ul><ul><li>Rarely get details right </li></ul><ul><li>Do not grasp research funding needs </li></ul><ul><li>Focus more on personalities rather than results </li></ul>
  9. 9. Additional Studies <ul><li>Journalists: </li></ul><ul><li>Perceived knowledge of biotech. greater than actual knowledge </li></ul><ul><li>Arkansas editors not educated in ag. but decide what is newsworthy </li></ul><ul><li>Less than ½ of AP wire service stories on ag. had facts considered verifiable </li></ul>
  10. 10. Perceptual Biases <ul><li>Soc. Psych. </li></ul><ul><li>Perceptions can be swayed by </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Racial stereotypes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Body language </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Facial expressions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Previous bias </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Self deceptions </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. Perceptual Biases <ul><li>Affecting journalists’ perceptions </li></ul><ul><li>The eyewitness fallacy </li></ul><ul><li>Underutilization of statistics/reliance on anecdotes </li></ul><ul><li>Confirmation bias </li></ul><ul><li>Misperception of risk </li></ul><ul><li>Misinterpretation of regression </li></ul><ul><li>Illusory correlation </li></ul><ul><li>Fundamental attribution error </li></ul>
  12. 12. Perceptual Biases <ul><li>Media can influence public agendas and public perceptions </li></ul><ul><li>Audiences perceive media messages by: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Direct experience </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Use of logic </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A sequence of processes that include cultural ties and values </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. Perceptual Biases <ul><li>Cognitive Dissonance </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Dissonance occurs whenever a person simultaneously holds two inconsistent cognitions (ideas, beliefs, opinions) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>State of inconsistency is so uncomfortable that people strive to reduce the conflict in the easiest way possible </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. Perceptual Biases <ul><li>Examples: </li></ul><ul><li>Food irradiation </li></ul><ul><li>Negative information reigns </li></ul><ul><li>“ Because the media tends to provide both sides of every story, the negative descriptions created by advocacy groups tend to be widely available” </li></ul><ul><li>Biotechnology </li></ul><ul><li>Significance of transgenic crops contaminating traditional crops weighed more heavily than what is more likely: contamination by other potentially harmful crops, like peanuts </li></ul>
  15. 15. Perceptual Biases <ul><li>Role of technology </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Fast development </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Paralysis of analysis” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Revert to a single, familiar feature of situation to make decision </li></ul></ul>
  16. 16. Conclusions <ul><li>Misunderstanding of science leads to unintentional / intentional hoodwinking </li></ul><ul><li>Uncertain (bleak?) future </li></ul><ul><li>Views of research skewed </li></ul><ul><li>Awareness of perceptual biases important </li></ul><ul><li>Higher ed. PR / scientists have to break through perceptual barriers </li></ul><ul><li>Persuasive messaging? </li></ul>
  17. 17. Future Research <ul><li>Role of education </li></ul><ul><li>Effects on policy/research funding </li></ul><ul><li>Effects of media monopolization </li></ul><ul><li>ID effective elements of comm. campaigns </li></ul><ul><li>Role of PR & effect of PR budgets </li></ul><ul><li>Effectiveness of communications training </li></ul><ul><li>Effectiveness of media relations training </li></ul>

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