School of Psychology News & events

Research Summary

Sumner P, Chambers C (2013 - 2014) Using experimental psychology to improve science communication.  Experimental Psychology Society.  £2,500.


The UK press has a voracious appetite for new findings about lifestyle, health and climate change, representing an opportunity for science communication unmatched by anything scientists can accomplish alone. However, when messages get distorted false beliefs, confusion and misguided behaviour occur. Major distortions receive considerable analysis (e.g. MMR), but less-scrutinised widespread minor distortions are also problematic, because – as mentioned in the Leveson Report – they cumulatively mislead the public and erode trust in science. Responsibility for these problems is universally deflected; scientists, journalists and press officers each blame one another, while for all parties the increasing pressures on time and need for exposure foster a culture of catchy oversimplification and exaggeration.

We seek to transform the blame-game about science in the media from anecdotal and prejudiced argument into a collaborative evidence-based approach to improving the interface between science and the media (which could have widespread impact on efforts to encourage lifestyle changes that benefit health, economy, and environment).