Controversy matters: Impacts of topic and solution controversy on the perceived credibility of a scientist who advocates

Lindsey Beall, Teresa A. Myers, John E. Kotcher, Emily K. Vraga, Edward W. Maibach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

In this article, we focus on the potential influence of a scientist’s advocacy position on the public’s perceived credibility of scientists as a whole. Further, we examine how the scientist’s solution position (information only, non-controversial, and controversial) affects the public’s perception of the scientist’s motivation for sharing information about specific issues (flu, marijuana, climate change, severe weather). Finally, we assess how perceived motivations mediate the relationship between solution position and credibility. Using data from a quota sample of American adults obtained by Qualtrics (n = 2,453), we found that in some conditions advocating for a solution positively predicted credibility, while in one condition, it negatively predicted scientist credibility. We also found that the influence of solution position on perceived credibility was mediated by several motivation perceptions; most notably through perception that the scientist was motivated to: (a) serve the public and (b) persuade the public. Further results and implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0187511
JournalPloS one
Volume12
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2017

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