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The representation of dangers and scientific phenomenon through genetic engineering in the year of t

PDF Abstract Although storytelling often has negative connotations within science, narrative formats of communication should not be disregarded when communicating science to nonexpert audiences. Narratives offer increased comprehension, interest, and engagement.

Nonexperts get most of their science information from mass media content, which is itself already biased toward narrative formats.

Narratives are also intrinsically persuasive, which offers science communicators tactics for persuading otherwise resistant audiences, although such use also raises ethical considerations.

Future intersections of narrative research with ongoing discussions in science communication are introduced. However, when the context moves from data collection to the communication of science to nonexpert audiences, stories, anecdotes, and narratives become not only more appropriate but potentially more important.

Research suggests that narratives are easier to comprehend and audiences find them more engaging than traditional logical-scientific communication 34.

More pragmatically, the sources from which nonexperts receive most of their science information are already biased toward narrative formats of communication.

Once out of formal schooling, nonexpert audiences get the majority of their scientific information from mass media content 5. Because media practitioners have to compete for the attention of their audiences, they routinely rely on stories, anecdotes, and other narrative formats to cut although the information clutter and resonate with their audiences. Although the plural of anecdote may not be data, the anecdote has a greater chance of reaching and engaging with a nonexpert audience.

The challenge for science communicators, then, is to decide when and how narratives can effectively and appropriately help them communicate to nonexperts about science. The purpose of this article is to synthesize literature on narrative communication and place it within a science communication context.

The article begins with a review of narrative literature, as well as the mass media context through which most nonexpert audiences get their information about science. The article then reviews the potential persuasive impacts of narrative communication and the ethical considerations of using narrative to communicate science.

Finally, future intersections of narrative with ongoing questions in science communication are introduced. Narratives Most individuals have an inherent understanding of what it means to tell a story. Communication scholars supplement this colloquial understanding of narrative through the articulation of certain factors that distinguish narrative as a communication format.

Narratives follow a particular structure that describes the cause-and-effect relationships between events that take place over a particular time period that impact particular characters. Such a definition is independent of content and so narratives can be present within almost any communication activity or media platform. Narratives are often contrasted with other formats of communication, such as expository or argumentative communication 7or with other types of explanations, such as descriptive, deductive, or statistical 6.

However, more generally, narratives are often contrasted with the logical-scientific communication underlying most of the sciences 39. Three areas in particular where logical-scientific and narrative formats differ are in their direction of generalizability, their reliance on context, and their standards for legitimacy.

Logical-scientific communication aims to provide abstract truths that remain valid across a specified range of situations. An individual may then use these abstract truths to generalize down to a specific case and ideally provide some level of predictive power regarding that specific.

Narrative communication instead provides a specific case from which an individual can generalize up to infer what the general truths must be to permit such a specific to occur 310.

In essence, the utilization of logical-scientific information follows deductive reasoning, whereas the utilization of narrative information follows inductive reasoning. Logical-scientific communication is context-free in that it deals with the understanding of facts that retain their meaning independently from their surrounding units of information. As such, these facts represent the meaningful unit of content and can be excised from a larger message and inserted into other messages, or even presented alone, with little loss of understanding.

As such, it is much harder to break a the representation of dangers and scientific phenomenon through genetic engineering in the year of t into smaller units of meaningful content without either greatly altering the understanding of the smaller unit or rendering the original narrative incoherent 3. Finally, because logical-scientific communication aims to provide general truths as an outcome, the legitimacy of its message is judged on the accuracy of its claims.

In contrast, because narrative communication instead aims to provide a reasonable depiction of individual experiences, the legitimacy of its message is judged on the verisimilitude of its situations.

Such differences have in part led to a framework claiming that logical-scientific and narrative communication are not just contrasting formats of communication, but represent two distinct cognitive pathways of comprehension 31516. The paradigmatic pathway controls the encoding of science-based evidence, whereas the narrative pathway controls the encoding of situation-based exemplars, leading to distinct differences in comprehension and understanding based on the pathway used to process the content.

Empirical studies support such a categorical difference between paradigmatic and narrative processing, and suggest that narrative processing is generally more efficient.

New Research In

Narratives are often associated with increased recall, ease of comprehension, and shorter reading times 1718. In a direct comparison with expository text, narrative text was read twice as fast and recalled twice as well, regardless of topic familiarity or interest in the content itself 1920. These benefits should not be assumed to come from simplicity, as coherent narratives demand a high level of complexity in both internal complexity and alignment to cultural and social expectancies 1521.

Instead, narratives seem to offer intrinsic benefits in each of the four main steps of processing information: As such, narrative cognition is thought to represent the default mode of human thought, proving structure to reality and serving as the underlying foundation for memory 18. This reliance on narratives is suggested to be the result of an evolutionary benefit because narratives provide their users with a format of comprehension to simulate possible realities 23which would serve to better predict cause-and-effect relationships and model the thoughts of other humans in the complex social interactions that define our species 24.

Such intrinsic benefits in comprehension could benefit the communication of science. Indeed, such a movement is underway within the science education literature 725.

Responding to various calls for reform in science education curriculum, some of which specifically note the potential of narrative formats for learning 26scholars are exploring how narratives may improve upon the traditional ways science is taught.

  • The first is the Public Understanding of Science model that considers controversies about science to be caused by a deficit of scientific understanding, and the role of communication is to rectify this deficit by educating the public and reducing the controversy toward a predetermined outcome 67 , 68;
  • Or do narratives decrease trust because they are seen as overly sensational or manipulative?

For example, Glaser et al. Similarly, the capacity model describes how both the narrative and educational components are processed when narratives are used in service of science education. Specifically, educational content that is more integral to the plotline of the narrative requires less cognitive resources for comprehension and leads to enhanced learning 27a prediction that has found empirical support elsewhere in narrative research 1213.

Similarly, health communication is another area exploring the potential benefits of using narrative, often to better educate or persuade individuals toward healthy behavior choices.

A meta-analysis of many of these health-related narrative studies found mixed results with regard to a net narrative effect 34although a lack of a consistent conceptualization of narrative 35 likely complicates any generalization. Regardless of the complexities involved, calls for more narrative within health contexts continue to surface 36. Although the benefits of including narrative into science education and health contexts remain under investigation, there is another context where narratives have long been the norm in the communication of science: Mass Media and Narratives The mass media is especially relevant when considering the communication of science because it represents the source from which nonexpert audiences get most of its science information.

Because much of science is outside of direct experience, people are dependent on others to inform and help them interpret information about science. Although many sources aim to fulfill this role, including formal schooling, institutes of informal science learning, or interpersonal discussion, none trump the ubiquity or frequency of the mass media.

As such, mass media content serves as the primary source of information regarding science, health, and environmental issues 5. Science and Engineering Indicators is an ongoing 2-y report produced by the National Science Foundation to document trends surrounding science and engineering and its intersection with the larger society.

This reliance on mass media content for information about science and technology is especially relevant for the current discussion because the organizational and societal pressures surrounding the mass media make them intrinsically biased toward the use of narratives.

Journalists must balance their dual goals of reporting objective and accurate information while simultaneously remaining economically viable by earning and maintaining the fleeting attention of their audiences. Gatekeeping theory describes the upstream influences of organizational routines, external pressures, and internal goals of media industries that shape the messages and formats that eventually emerge for audience consumption 3940.

The theory emphasizes that news stories are not preexisting units that journalists merely select for transmission, but rather, reality becomes news through a selective structuring that creates units that fit the organizational needs, such as timing of creation, ease of transmission, and audience expectations. In particular, the concept of news values articulate specific foci that have a better chance of attracting the attention of an audience.

As such, news is packaged to match as many news values as possible, while downplaying or even ignoring other relevant aspects 41. Common news values include conflict, novelty, geographic or cultural proximity to the audience, prominence of individuals, impact or personal relevance to the audience, and timeliness 4142. However, another important news value is one with clear links to narrative: Even when reporting on larger social forces, news media routinely personify abstract concepts for dramatic storytelling, focusing on a particular individual or smaller group within the larger context and exploring the consequences of their actions 41a practice explored in detail within exemplification theory 43.

There are many reasons why personification makes sense for news media. For the audience, personification allows the audience a greater chance of identification and empathy compared with the larger aggregate and aligns better with the Western expectation of individualism.

For the media, personification better meets the needs of news production, as it is easier to interview and photograph an individual rather than something that represents larger social forces.

Similarly, individual people generally act in a timespan that more closely matches the frequency of news publication 41. This narrative bias of the personification news value is evident within the coverage of science.

Badenschier and Wormer 42 interviewed editors of science sections in German newspapers and content-analyzed the science coverage of their newspapers to determine the specific news values that impact the coverage of science. Although the authors argue that some of the standard news values need to be amended for the specifics of science coverage, personalization was found to remain one of the strong predictors on the selection process of science news.

Elliott 38 found a similar bias toward personalization in the framing of news media covering medical technologies. Kirby 51 interviewed television writers and producers and reports that they often look to science to add realism to their stories, but must use the science in a way that aligns with narrative conventions and their particular franchise to attract an audience.

He stresses that scientific realism for writers is about authenticity and plausibility, not accuracy.

  • Fictional narratives often contain elements within them that are truthful 58 , and individuals readily use information from fictional stories to answer questions about the world 59 , 60;
  • Specifically, educational content that is more integral to the plotline of the narrative requires less cognitive resources for comprehension and leads to enhanced learning 27 , a prediction that has found empirical support elsewhere in narrative research 12 , 13;
  • Responding to various calls for reform in science education curriculum, some of which specifically note the potential of narrative formats for learning 26 , scholars are exploring how narratives may improve upon the traditional ways science is taught;
  • In contrast, because narrative communication instead aims to provide a reasonable depiction of individual experiences, the legitimacy of its message is judged on the verisimilitude of its situations;
  • The challenge for science communicators, then, is to decide when and how narratives can effectively and appropriately help them communicate to nonexperts about science.

As such, narratives represent the dominant form of science communication nonexpert audiences are receiving. Therefore, questioning whether narratives should be used to communicate science is somewhat moot. A more relevant question would be: How should narratives be used to communicate science appropriately because of their power to persuade?

Narrative Persuasion and Ethical Considerations Narratives are intrinsically persuasive. Because they describe a particular experience rather than general truths, narratives have no need to justify the accuracy of their claims; the story itself demonstrates the claim.

Similarly, the structure of narrative links its events into a cause-and-effect relationship, making the conclusion of the narrative seem inevitable even though many possibilities could have happened 52. This inevitability, combined with the lack of a need for justification, supports the many normative elements with a story—what is good, what is bad—without ever needing to clearly articulate or defend them 20.

Because narratives are able to provide values to real-world objects without argument, it is difficult to counter their claims. The field of narrative persuasion explores this persuasive side of narratives, examining how audiences tend to accept normative views presented in a narrative and the underlying mechanisms that facilitate such persuasion.

Results generally suggest that audiences are more willing to accept normative evaluations from narratives than from more logical-scientific arguments 5354and that a range of mediating and moderating factors influence this tendency. For example, engagement into the world of a narrative, termed transportation, uses enough emotional and cognitive resources that it is difficult for audiences to generate counter-arguments against the evaluations to which they are exposed 453.

Similarly, the related field of exemplification theory finds that when narrative and statistical information are both present within a single message, such as in a news story that describes an overall phenomenon but then also provides specific cases as examples, perceptions skew toward the experiences of the specific cases regardless of whether the overall evaluations align or not 55.

One of the few factors that has been found to hinder narrative persuasion is when the persuasive intent becomes obvious and audiences react against being manipulated 56.

As long as such persuasive intent remains concealed, acceptance of narrative evaluations is thought to represent the default outcome of exposure, where rejection is only possible with added scrutiny afterward 457. Similar persuasive influences are found even if the audience knows that the narrative in question is fictional 53.

Using narratives and storytelling to communicate science with nonexpert audiences

Fictional narratives often contain elements within them that are truthful 58and individuals readily use information from fictional stories to answer questions about the world 5960. The persuasiveness of narrative formats of communication can both benefit science communication and create challenges. In contrast to such benefits, narratives can also perpetuate misinformation and inaccuracies about science or about scientists themselves 65.

Additionally, because narratives are not subject to the same truth requirements as logical-scientific communication 3they are not easily countered. In fact, accepted narratives are trusted so much that individuals rarely allow evidence to contradict the narrative; evidence is altered to fit their narratives 66. However, the use of narratives within social controversies introduces unique ethical considerations.

A recent paper explored some of these ethical considerations and offered three questions communicators should consider before using narratives to communicate science within social controversies 58. The first ethical question asks if the underlying goal for using narrative is for persuasion or comprehension.