Source of article The Jury Room - Keene Trial Consulting.
On July 10, 2017, we published the first part of this post on combatting mistrust in science. As we continued to read, we decided there was more for you to know about this topic so here’s a bit more information.
We wanted to share a couple of ways scientists shoot themselves in the foot when it comes to maintaining credibility. First, they think themselves more rational than the rest of us and second, their over-the-top advocacy for science backfires by making them seem like “just another partisan group”. In research speak, this is an example of scientists being only human, and like the rest of us, falling prey to the better than average effect. At least one writer believes, that scientists, in their rush to be “right”, seem to have forgotten that science itself, is based on questioning facts.
In our first post, we mentioned Dan Kahan’s vigorous disagreement that science even has a credibility issue. As it turns out, the Pew Research Center (or rather, the US citizens they surveyed for this article) agrees with Dan! In a recent report released by Pew on public confidence in scientists, they point out that public confidence in scientists has remained stable since the 1970s. The graphic here is taken directly from the Pew report and shows how public confidence in both medicine and science have remained roughly stable for decades.
While Pew says (in a widely cited finding) that public trust in institutions is lower today than it was in the mid-1970s—they also say that public confidence in both medicine and the scientific community is higher than it is in many institutions these days.
Who has less of the public confidence than scientists and the medical community? Almost everyone—(in descending order) from K-12 administrators to religious leaders to the news media to business leaders and finally to elected officials.
So what does this mean? It likely means what it’s meant for years now.
When your case relies on science—you need an expert who is able to teach jurors at a high school level without being condescending or incomprehensible.
We’ve seen hundreds of mock jurors tune out very well-credentialed experts who were more interested in showing off their knowledge than in actually communicating.
You want someone who “looks credible” to the jurors but is also able to communicate very complex information at multiple levels so that the audience to whom the expert is speaking understands and feels good about their ability to understand after the testimony.
We agree that there is a sort of anti-intellectual movement in the US today. However, that seems (at least in our experience) to be reserved for those intellectuals who speak at a level incomprehensible to the layperson.
When your witness is able to make the science applicable and relevant to the jurors daily lives—they are not an intellectual elitist.
They are instead, a credible witness who helped jurors understand important issues that will help them render a just decision in a confusing situation.