Helicase in Healthcare: Unzipping the Complexities of DNA With Intuitive Language

Presenter: Kyleigh Watson

Research Category:
College: Bouve College of Health Sciences
Major(s): Health Science
Graduation Date: 2022
Additional Authors: Shrreya Aagarwal, Caitlin Cullina, Maya Mastro, Kelly Riddle, Emily E. Dahlgaard Thor

Understanding scientific information is necessary to inform education, health-care choices, and policy decisions. Research in cognitive science suggests that there is a relationship between the use of cognitive construals (which make up intuitive thinking) and scientific misconceptions. These cognitive construals are anthropic (using humans as a base for reasoning), teleological (reverse causal reasoning), and essentialist thinking (assuming an underlying essence).

Many science communications use construal-consistent language to make content more accessible. Previous studies in our lab found a positive relationship between the use of anthropic language in science communications culled from online sources and participant understanding. However, there may be trade-offs between making science accessible and reinforcing intuitive misconceptions. In this research, we further investigate the relationships between the use of construal-consistent language and understanding of scientific information.

Participants were asked to take a multiple choice ÒPre-TestÓ measuring their knowledge about genetics. They then read and summarized one of five articles constructed by the research team which were controlled to contain exactly the same content, differing only in the type of intuitive language used. Next, they completed a ÒPost-Test,Ó among other measures of knowledge. A team of trained coders scored the summaries based off of a predetermined guide.

We hypothesize that articles using intuitive language will impact participantsÕ understanding. Based on our previous work, we expect the article using anthropic language to positively predict understanding. Of particular interest is the degree to which other types of intuitive language are related to understanding, and whether this relationship is positive or negative.