Perceived familiarity or factual knowledge? Comparing operationalizations of scientific understanding

Pete Ladwig, Kajsa E. Dalrymple, Dominique Brossard, Dietram A. Scheufele, Elizabeth Corley

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    52 Scopus citations


    This study compares two frequently used operationalizations of understanding: factual knowledge and perceived familiarity. The authors argue that these measurements-which have been used interchangeably in past research-are conceptually distinct and should be treated as such. Using hierarchical linear ordinary least squares regression, this study provides evidence that factual knowledge and perceived familiarity are only slightly correlated and are influenced differently by predicting variables, such as media use and cognitive processing variables. As a result, the use of these measures may result in different assessments of the levels of public understanding, which has important implications for future policy decisions.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)761-774
    Number of pages14
    JournalScience and Public Policy
    Issue number6
    StatePublished - Dec 2012


    • Familiarity
    • Knowledge
    • Media
    • Science
    • Understanding
    • nanotechnology

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Geography, Planning and Development
    • Public Administration
    • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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