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INCREASING PUBLIC UNDERSTANDING AND FACILITATING BEHAVIOR CHANGE: TWO GUIDING HEURISTICS.

Many fields of science produce knowledge of potential importance to members of the public and policymakers. Yet, scientists and science organizations are often frustrated by their apparent lack of success in sharing such knowledge with these audiences. Low rates of public and policymaker awareness and concern about important threats, nonadoption of behaviors, and policies that can prevent harm, and even contesting the validity of well-established evidence are all particularly vexing problems if society is to benefit from its investments in science. To be successful, we need to both clearly convey what we know and help translate resultant decisions into effective actions.

Achieving this aim requires us to address two distinct yet interrelated and often conflated challenges. The first is helping decision-makers--including members of the public, business managers, and government officials--make wise decisions (i.e., decisions informed by the relevant evidence). The second challenge is helping people--after they have made wise decisions--follow through with effective actions. Fortunately, insights from social and behavioral science research can help us effectively address both challenges. These insights can be succinctly expressed in two heuristics, or organizing principles.

Helping decision makers make wise decisions involves bringing the best available scientific information to their attention, suggesting the need to make decisions, and clarifying the nature of the problem and the opportunities to address it--at times and in ways that are most likely to be helpful. In short, it involves effectively sharing what we know.

To effectively and proactively do this, the first heuristic instructs that we as the scientific body developing such knowledge need to generate simple and clear messages, repeated often, by a variety of trusted voices. Developing such simple, clear messages (required for attention and comprehension) and creating opportunities to have them repeated often (required for learning) by a variety of trusted voices (including but not limited to the voices of scientists and science organizations, since these may not be considered to be the most trusted voices) involves both the science of science communication and the discipline of a strategic communication campaign.

People often make wise decisions but fail to follow through with effective actions. To help people convert their wise decisions into effective actions, the second heuristic directs that we do everything possible to make those actions easy, fun, and popular. Making effective actions easier to perform (by reducing barriers to their performance), more fun (by providing benefits people want, ideally now rather than later), and more popular (by highlighting opinion leaders who are already embracing the action) requires that we strive to improve the feasibility of effective actions.

Experts are available to help us surmount both of these challenges, but even without their help, application of these heuristics will improve our science translation outcomes, for example in the realm of climate change science understanding--Ed Maibach (George Mason University), "Increasing public understanding and facilitating behavior change: Two guiding heuristics," presented at the Ninth Conference on Environment and Health, 7-11 January 2018, Austin, Texas.

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Title Annotation:NOWCAST: CONFERENCE NOTEBOOK
Publication:Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2018
Words:489
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