Arthur Lupia
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Hot Topic(s):
Fire Communication & Education
Public Perspectives of Fire Management
Fire Policy & Law

Record updated: November 1, 2017
NRFSN number: 12605

Many members of the scientific community attempt to convey information to policymakers and the public. Much of this information is ignored or misinterpreted. This article describes why these outcomes occur and how science communicators can achieve better outcomes. The article focuses on two challenges associated with communicating scientific information to such audiences. One challenge is that people have less capacity to pay attention to scientific presentations than many communicators anticipate. A second challenge is that people in politicized environments often make different choices about whom to believe than do people in other settings. Together, these challenges cause policymakers and the public to be less responsive to scientific information than many communicators desire. Research on attention and source credibility can help science communicators better adapt to these challenges. Attention research clarifies when, and to what type of stimuli, people do (and do not) pay attention. Source credibility research clarifies the conditions under which an audience will believe scientists’ descriptions of phenomena rather than the descriptions of less-valid sources. Such research can help communicators stay true to their science while making their findings more memorable and more believable to more audiences.


Lupia, Arthur. 2013. Communicating science in politicized environments. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 110(3): 14048-14054.

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