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Transparent communication of evidence does not undermine public trust in evidence.

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Does clear and transparent communication of risks, benefits, and uncertainties increase or undermine public trust in scientific information that people use to guide their decision-making? We examined the impact of reframing messages written in traditional persuasive style to align instead with recent "evidence communication" principles, aiming to inform decision-making: communicating a balance of risks and benefits, disclosing uncertainties and evidence quality, and prebunking misperceptions. In two pre-registered experiments, UK participants read either a persuasive message or a balanced and informative message adhering to evidence communication recommendations about COVID-19 vaccines (Study 1) or nuclear power plants (Study 2). We find that balanced messages are either perceived as trustworthy as persuasive messages (Study 1), or more so (Study 2). However, we note a moderating role of prior beliefs such that balanced messages were consistently perceived as more trustworthy among those with negative or neutral prior beliefs about the message content. We furthermore note that participants who had read the persuasive message on nuclear power plants voiced significantly stronger support for nuclear power than those who had read the balanced message, despite rating the information as less trustworthy. There was no difference in vaccination intentions between groups reading the different vaccine messages.



communication, evidence communication, transparency, trust, trustworthiness, uncertainty

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PNAS Nexus

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Oxford University Press (OUP)