They’re Smart, but You Can’t Trust Them: Using Communication Principles to Help Scientists to Increase their Trustworthiness in Public Communication Situations
Scientists struggle with creating positive public perceptions with public audiences. This is true despite the generally positive view members of the public hold for science and scientists, including a positive view of the contributions of scientists to society. In fact, members of the public feel separated from scientists, stand in awe of scientists, and are intimidated by scientists (Jacobs, 2011). Rhetoricians and communication scholars can help, as they have been grappling with and refining ways of building trustworthiness, respect, credibility, and connection between speakers and their audiences for centuries, and the communication principles developed through their work are particularly applicable to the difficulties faced by scientists engaging public audiences.