Elegant Science Narratives and Unintended Influences: An Agenda for the Science of Science Communication Academic Article uri icon


  • 2018 The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues Scientists must share their work with the public in order to promote science-based public discourse and policies. These acts of science communication are often evaluated in terms of their ability to inform (i.e., introduce accurate and accessible information) and engage (i.e., capture interest and maintain attention). We focus on a third basis by which science communication might be judged, influence. Science communicators exert influence when they shape public opinions in ways that affect their judgments and decisions, alter social and political discourse and debate, and guide social policy. We describe how the influence of any given science communication should be evaluated independent of its ability to inform or engage. We give particular attention in our analysis to the often unintended influences that well-meaning science communicators can have. We begin by considering ways that communications from climate scientists might reduce support for climate regulation and communications from health scientists might undermine public health. We then develop two case studies, drawn from social psychology. These show how popular media descriptions of the science of racial bias and disadvantage might in some cases exacerbate racial discrimination and reduce concern for the disadvantaged. We close with an agenda for a more vigorous science of science communication; one that engages in two complementary pursuits. Critical studies identify the dominant and consequential effects that popular science communicators are having on public perceptions. Strategic studies advance and empirically test communication strategies that scientists can pursue to reducerather than exacerbatesocial problems.

published proceedings

  • Social Issues and Policy Review

altmetric score

  • 54.63

author list (cited authors)

  • Blanton, H., & Ikizer, E. G.

citation count

  • 9

complete list of authors

  • Blanton, Hart||Ikizer, Elif G

publication date

  • January 2019