Think pieces

If they don’t get science, get emotional

Smart scientists may need to get in touch with their emotional sides.

That’s the opinion of science writer and communicator, Tim Requarth. Writing in Slate Magazine, he believes the ‘deficit model’ – that people disagree with science simply because of a deficit of knowledge – doesn’t cut it when it comes to helping the cause of understanding science.

In fact, trying to explain science might push people the other way.

It’s known that information by itself is not enough to bring about behaviour change, especially when it conflicts with someone’s worldview. This is known as the backfire effect. In effect, it means that if facts contradict what we feel should be right, we tend to go with our feelings. And repeating something, even if it’s false, can reinforce it, even when its proven to be a myth.

So, what should scientists do? According to Requarth, appeal to emotions by explaining why it matters first, rather than why it is so. Values first, intellect second.

Changing behaviour means changing minds, and when it comes to communicating science, it increasingly means working smarter rather than louder.

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Day 118 with thanks to Okko Pyykko via Flickr