Tag: cultural cognition

Why Everything You Know About Science Communications is Wrong, and More Science is the Answer

Recovery begins by admitting you have a problem. But the real problem with communicating science — particularly around climate change and other issues involving risk — is that we’re often focused on the wrong problem. And, as a must-read new paper by Harvard risk communications scholar Dan Kahan argues, only getting truly serious about the science of science communications can keep us from digging the hole even deeper.

Think back to the last conversation you had about climate change with someone who wants global action on the issue. Chances are, the conversation quickly devolved into a cycle of finger pointing that went something like this:

* Blame scientists, because they don’t communicate the risks of climate change clearly and simply enough. Or emotionally enough. Or starkly enough. (Or maybe they shouldn’t be communicating at all, because they’re just no good at it.)

* Blame the media, because they’re not covering climate change enough (or prominently enough, or in a way that connects with people, or with the right mix of local and global relevance, or because they airwaves have been flooded with anti-climate-change rhetoric fueled by big money interests).

* And blame the public, because it’s not scientifically literate enough to understand the risks of climate change, or it’s too distracted by media-fueled triviality to care.

The assumption underlying all this blame? The public isn’t getting the gravity of the problem — because if they did, how could they fail to act? (This is what Kahan and other social scientists call the “public irrationality thesis.”) Ergo: If we could just transfer our scientific knowledge to enough people (and make enough people receptive enough to understand it), those people would of course change their minds to agree with us, change their voting patterns and behavior in the ways we desire…and the world would be saved.

Communications scholars call this chain of reasoning the “injection” or “empty bucket” or “science deficit” model of communications. The real problem: About two decades of science on the science deficit model have shown that it’s not true.

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Salmon Cam Returns

We’re pleased to return Salmon Cam, a live view of spawning Chinook and coho salmon and steelhead trout.

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