The Effects of Uncertainty Frames in Three Science Communication Topics

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Abstract

While uncertainty is central to science, many fear negative effects of communicating scientific uncertainties to the public, though research results about such effects are inconsistent. Therefore, we test the effects of four distinct uncertainty frame types (deficient, technical, scientific, consensus) on three outcomes (belief, credibility, behavioral intentions) across three science issues (climate change, GMO food labeling, machinery hazards) with an experiment using a national sample (N = 2,247) approximating U.S. census levels of age, education, and gender. We find portraying scientific findings using uncertainty frames usually does not have significant effects, with an occasional exception being small negative effects of consensus uncertainty.

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Gustafson, A., & Rice, R. E. (2019). The Effects of Uncertainty Frames in Three Science Communication Topics. Science Communication, 41(6), 679–706. https://doi.org/10.1177/1075547019870811

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