Why do people mistrust science? The role of diversity

Last registered on January 29, 2021

Pre-Trial

Trial Information

General Information

Title
Why do people mistrust science? The role of diversity
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0007098
Initial registration date
January 28, 2021
Last updated
January 29, 2021, 8:43 AM EST

Locations

Region

Primary Investigator

Affiliation
University of Notre Dame

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
University of Toronto

Additional Trial Information

Status
In development
Start date
2021-02-01
End date
2021-05-31
Secondary IDs
Abstract
On many issues, such as the safety of vaccines or human-caused climate change, a substantial minority of the public rejects the scientific consensus. Why are individuals willing to reject the opinions of much better-informed experts on these issues? One possibility is that individuals distrust the objectivity of scientists. Scientists are people, and their opinions – particularly those relevant to policy – are shaped not only by evidence, but also by prior beliefs, values, and incentives. Given the dominance of white men and liberals in science (e.g. Nelson and Rogers, 2005; Gross and Simmons, 2007), the public may reasonably infer that scientists are not evaluating the evidence according to the same values that they hold. If this is the case, then increasing diversity in science communication should improve public trust - both by increasing the probability that there is a "match" between the scientist communicating results and the participant, and by showing that people with a wide range of values hold similar opinions. In this trial, we attempt to directly test this hypothesis by showing people communications about the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine from scientists who randomly differ in their demographics or political/religious orientation. We examine both the effect of "matching" the participant, and of diversity more generally, by assigning participants to one of four treatment conditions: one where they see statements from two scientists who are different from the participant but similar to each other (no match, no diversity), one where they see a statement from two scientists who "match" them on demographics or political/religious orientation (match, no diversity), one where they see two statements from scientists who are different from the participant and from each other (no match but diversity), and one where they see statements from one scientist who matches them and one who does not (match and diversity). We will examine the impact of these statements on trust in science, intent to get the COVID vaccine, and eventual uptake of the vaccine.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Citation
Cornelson, Kirsten and Boriana Miloucheva. 2021. "Why do people mistrust science? The role of diversity." AEA RCT Registry. January 29. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.7098-1.0
Experimental Details

Interventions

Intervention(s)
Our sample will consist of 6,750 individuals recruited by a survey firm. These individuals will represent an approximate random sample of the Canadian population, with one exception: we restrict the sample to individuals who belong to one of Canada's 5 largest racial/ethnic groups, in order to facilitate "matching" on the demographic condition. These 5 groups make up over 90% of the Canadian population.

The participants will answer baseline questions about age, sex, education, province of residence, first language, and political/religious orientation. They will then be assigned to one of 9 arms, described below. In the control group, participants see no additional materials before moving on to the second part of the survey. In each of the remaining 8 treatment arms, the participants will see two statements by scientists about the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine. The statements are accompanied by photos and biographies of the scientists, which the participants will be instructed to read. The treatment arms vary according to either the race/gender of the scientists presenting the message, or according to their political/religious orientation, which is signaled by adding statements to the biography identifying the scientist as either liberal/non-religious, liberal/religious, conservative/non-religious, or conservative/religious.

Following treatment, the participants will answer questions on their trust in scientists and their intention to get a COVID vaccination. We also plan to follow up with the participants 3 months later to see who has actually received the vaccination (among the population who is eligible at the time).
Intervention Start Date
2021-02-01
Intervention End Date
2021-02-26

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
1) Trust in scientists (scale from 1-5)
2) Intention to get a COVID-19 vaccination (four outcomes: get it right away, get it with delay, do not get it, unsure)
3) Actual COVID-vaccination after 3 months (0/1 variable)
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
Participants will be assigned to either a control group, or one of 8 treatment groups:
T1 (demographics; no match, no diversity): the participant sees two scientists who have the same race and gender as each other, but different from the participant's own race and gender
T2 (demographics; match, no diversity): the participant sees two scientists who both have the same race and gender as the participant
T3 (demographics: no match, diversity): the participant sees two scientists who have different race and gender from each other; neither race matches the participant's
T4 (demographics: match, diversity): the participant sees two scientists, one of whom matches the participant on race and gender and the other who does not
T5 (orientation; no match, no diversity): the participant sees two scientists who have the same political/religious orientation as each other, but different from the participant's own orientation
T6: (orientation: match, no diversity): the participant sees two scientists who both have the same political/religious orientation as the participant
T7 (orientation: no match, diversity): the participant sees two scientists who have different political/religious from each other; neither perfectly matches the participant's orientation
T8 (orientation: match, diversity): the participant sees two scientists, one of whom matches the participant on political/religious orientation and the other who does not
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization done by computer
Randomization Unit
Individual randomization
Was the treatment clustered?
No

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
9, which correspond to the 9 treatment arms
Sample size: planned number of observations
6,750
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
750 per treatment arm
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
Approximately 0.1 standard deviations in each outcome measure, with a power of 0.8.
IRB

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
University of Notre Dame Institutional Review Board
IRB Approval Date
2020-11-10
IRB Approval Number
20-10-6282

Post-Trial

Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Intervention

Is the intervention completed?
No
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?
No

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials