To believe or not to believe
Who do you go to in dire times of need? Why do you turn to them?
It’s most likely because you trust them!
Trust seems to be one of the most highly weighted elements in determining good or effective communication.
For example, I trust my mother completely and so whatever she tells or teaches me, I believe her (i.e. the message is effectively communicated). When you trust someone, the credibility of the message is naturally established and the message is easily accepted. However, when this trust is broken, communication is hindered. That’s where all the tricky bits come into the place.
The question is, why causes that trust to be broken? In the case of risk communication, it is because information was concealed or withheld from the receivers of the message and when they do eventually find out, they feel deceived and question the initial intentions of the communicating party. Were they intentionally withholding information to deceive others for self-benefit?
In this article, Leiss talks about risk communication in the context of seeking consensus on health and environmental matters. He also touches on the risk analysis, which consists of risk management, risk assessment and risk communication. He uses a poker game analogy to paint a parallel picture of “bluffing, raising the ante, and calling the perceived bluffs of others are matters of survival, in relation to risk communication. He raises a good point about parties mistrusting one another for very good reasons, which are based on historical experience. As the saying goes, once bitten twice shy.
Having said all that, the public is definitely not as uneducated and foolish to blindly believe everything that is being communicated to them. With the internet, information is so easily assessed and made available to the public, it’s no wonder “bluffs” are always being called.
So, how do you know who and what to believe? Would you believe again in someone who has “deceived” you before?
Leiss W. 1995. “Down and dirty” The use and abuse of public trust in risk communication. Risk Analysis 15(6):685-692.