Emotion and judgments of scientific research

Caitlin Drummond, Baruch Fischhoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Scientific research has the power to prompt strong emotional reactions. We investigated the relationship between such reactions and individuals’ understanding and judgments of the research. Participants read an article describing recent cancer research and reported the extent to which it evoked six emotions: fear, anger, disgust, happiness, sadness, and surprise. We modeled these emotions two ways, either considering each separately or clustering them into two groups, for emotions with positive or negative valence. Even after controlling for the number of predictors, models based on the six separate emotions better predicted participants’ subjective understanding of the research, judgments of its quality, and trust in the scientists who conducted it. Participants who reported more disgust also had more negative judgments of the research and the scientists, but these relationships were weaker when participants reported their emotions before making these judgments, rather than after. We discuss practical and ethical implications of these results.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)319-334
Number of pages16
JournalPublic Understanding of Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • emotion
  • science communication
  • trust

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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