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Scientists, speak up! Source impacts trust in health advice across five countries

Zarzeczna, Natalia, Hanel, Paul, Rutjens, Bastiaan, Bono, Suzanna, Chen, Yi-Hua and Haddock, Geoffrey ORCID: 2023. Scientists, speak up! Source impacts trust in health advice across five countries. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied 10.1037/xap0000500

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We examined how different types of communication influence people’s responses to health advice. We tested whether presenting Covid-19 prevention advice (e.g., washing hands/distancing) as either originating from a government or scientific source would affect people’s trust in and intentions to comply with the advice. We also manipulated uncertainty in communicating the advice effectiveness. To achieve this, we conducted an experiment using large samples of participants (N= 4,561) from the UK, US, Canada, Malaysia, and Taiwan. Across countries, participants found messages more trustworthy when the purported source was science rather than the government. This effect was moderated by political orientation in all countries except for Canada, while religiosity moderated the source effect in the US. Although source did not directly affect intentions to act upon the advice, we found an indirect effect via trust, such that a more trusted source (i.e., science) was predictive of higher intentions to comply. However, the uncertainty manipulation was not effective. Together, our findings suggest that despite prominence of science scepticism in public discourse, people trust scientists more than governments when it comes to practical health advice. It is therefore beneficial to communicate health messages by stressing their scientific bases.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: In Press
Schools: Psychology
Publisher: American Psychological Association
ISSN: 1076-898X
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 14 August 2023
Date of Acceptance: 8 August 2023
Last Modified: 21 Nov 2023 23:45

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