Navigating Scientific Disagreement: The Effect of Expertise, Interestedness, and Scientific Literacy on Trust in Scientists and Belief in Science Claims

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Media disagreements about science can blur distinctions between experts and non-experts, potentially eroding public trust in scientific claims. We explore how trust in scientific claims and experts is affected by the expertise and vested interests of dissenting voices, and scientific literacy’s role. In an experiment, participants (N = 105) read science news articles featuring disagreement between experts. The dissenting expert’s expertise and potential conflicts of interest were varied. Results show scientists were deemed more trustworthy when disagreeing experts had vested interests or lacked domain expertise. Furthermore, those with higher scientific literacy better assessed claims and trustworthiness based on these factors.

Ryan Watkins