Communicating science, fast and slow: A strategy for being heard
Communicating novel concepts to a skeptical audience is never easy. The mental process for weighing evidence and reaching a conclusion is effortful and not easily engaged. In its place, listeners revert to the seemingly effortless process of deciding whether a source is trustworthy and likable. What if there were a communication tool that reached and satisfied each of these two processes? Such a tool has now been recognized and popularized by an unlikely source.
You want to communicate your latest scientific findings, and you know the world needs to hear them. But you do not have to look far to see examples of science becoming politicized and sound information being disregarded. Therefore, you wonder if there is a better path to success in science communication.
Good news: there is! And you have just seen a clue to what it is. But before we propose a solution, let us consider the scope of the problem. According to one recent study, only about half the adults in the USA report trusting science “a lot.” (1) Evidence of this weak level of trust can be seen in the politicization of advice for avoiding the coronavirus pandemic.
While it is true that conveying scientific concepts to non-scientists is difficult, we cannot be too quick to blame lay people. This author has seen many scientists fail to connect with scientific audiences, as well. What is needed is a way to overcome the mental barriers that impede the absorption of novel information.
One way to do that is to learn from Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman.