A new study finds that when people listen to recordings of scientists presenting their work, the quality of audio has a significant impact on whether the listener believes the content, regardless of who the researchers are or what they are talking about.
Dr. Eryn Newman of the Australian National University (ANU) Research School of Psychology said the findings reveal that when it comes to communicating science, style can override substance.
“When people are assessing the credibility of information, most of the time people are making a judgement based on how something feels,” said Newman.”Our results showed that when the sound quality was poor, the participants thought the researcher wasn’t as intelligent, they didn’t like them as much and found their research less important.”
For the study, participants watched video clips of scientists speaking at conferences. One group of participants heard the recordings in clear high-quality audio, while the other group heard the same recordings with poor-quality audio.
When asked to give an evaluation of the researchers and their work, participants who listened to the poorer quality audio consistently evaluated the scientists as less intelligent and their research as less important.
Next, the researchers upped the ante and conducted the same experiment using renowned scientists discussing their work on the well-known U.S. public radio program “Science Friday. “This time the recordings included audio of the scientists being introduced with their qualifications and institutional affiliations.
“It made no difference,” said Newman.”As soon as we reduced the audio quality, all of a sudden the scientists and their research lost credibility.”
Similar to the first experiment, participants thought the research was worse, the scientists were less competent and they also reported finding their work less interesting.
Newman said in a time when genuine science is struggling to be heard above fake news and alternate facts, researchers need to consider not only the content of their messages, but the quality of delivery.
“Another recent study showed false information travels six times faster than real information on Twitter,” she said.”Our results show that it’s not just about who you are and what you are saying, it’s about how your work is presented.”
The findings are published in the journal Science Communication.
Source: Australian National University