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Title:Simplifying Science: Scientific Uncertainty in News Coverage of Cancer Research
Author(s):Jensen, Jakob Daniel
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Tewksbury, David H.
Department / Program:Speech Communication
Discipline:Speech Communication
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Mass Communications
Abstract:News coverage of scientific research is routinely streamlined. In other words, the research is stripped of caveats, limitations, and other indicators of scientific uncertainty. But whether streamlining affects audience perception is unknown. It has been suggested that streamlining may (a) influence news consumers' perceptions of scientists' and journalists' credibility (perceptions which may be related to support for scientific research and adoption of science-based recommendations) and/or (b) aid audience understanding of complex scientific information. To test these assumptions, a multiple-message experiment (N = 910) was conducted wherein college undergraduates were exposed to one of five manipulated news articles focused on cancer research. The articles were all manipulated to have varying levels (no uncertainty, low uncertainty, high uncertainty) and sources of scientific uncertainty (attributed to either scientists responsible for the research or to scientists unaffiliated with the research). The study found that both scientists and journalists were viewed as more trustworthy when scientific uncertainty in news coverage of cancer research was increased and attributed to the scientists responsible for the research (as opposed to scientists unaffiliated with the research). Generally speaking, learning was not affected by the manipulations; although there was a marginally significant interaction between level of uncertainty and participant cancer anxiety. When news articles contained uncertainty, participants with low cancer anxiety were able to answer more questions correctly whereas participants with high cancer anxiety answered fewer questions correctly. The results provide researchers with valuable information about the role of scientific uncertainty in lay processing of science news as well as practical guidance to both scientists and journalists interested in the effective communication of science.
Issue Date:2007
Description:200 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2007.
Other Identifier(s):(MiAaPQ)AAI3290259
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-28
Date Deposited:2007

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