SHOULD EXPERTS 'PRACTICE WHAT THEY PREACH'?
Common wisdom assumes that experts who lead by example - who embody the standards that they advocate to others in their own lives - will be more compelling. However, I show that experts who emphasize their high standards intimidate people who worry about falling short, and this undermines these experts' influence. My dissertation research (with Benoît Monin) demonstrated that doctors who emphasize their own commitment to a healthy lifestyle do not always inspire patients. Instead, fitter doctors seem more judgmental of patients with some unhealthy habits, and overweight patients accordingly avoid healthcare from superfit providers. Click here to access a publication from this research and here to read an article that I wrote for the New York Times about these studies.
COULD A DOCTOR WHO IS 'ALL BUSINESS' BE BAD FOR YOUR HEALTH?
We might think that having a friendly doctor is nice, but not essential: that it's just a fluffy, feel-good thing that boosts Yelp reviews, but what really matters is a doctor's medical competence. Instead, my research (with Alia Crum) illustrates the many ways in which social connection with a provider is just as critical as perceived medical expertise to effective healthcare. Here is a publication showing that warmer providers bolster the extent to which patients respond to a healthcare treatment, another demonstrating that provider warmth increases the number of minutes patients believe a doctor spent with them, and another showing that providers can change patients' mindsets about symptoms during treatment to enhance treatment effectiveness.
WHAT PREVENTS PEOPLE FROM BOUNCING BACK AFTER REJECTION?
Whether it's a failed grant proposal, not getting a job, or dealing with a bad breakup, some people recover readily from rejection, while for others the pain leaves scars that linger for years. My research (with Carol Dweck) finds that people who respond to rejection by questioning their self-definitions - in other words, wondering what the person who rejected them glimpsed about them and found undesirable - are haunted more by the ghosts of their romantic past. In addition, we find that people with more fixed mindsets (i.e., who believe that personality does not tend to change) are more likely to see rejection as self-definitional. Click here to access a published paper on this research, here for an article about these studies I wrote for The Atlantic, and listen to my interview on KQED about this topic.
CAN EXPRESSING UNCERTAINTY INCREASE HOW PERSUASIVE SCIENTISTS ARE?
Does expressing uncertainty make the public less confident in experts - or might it actually bolster trust and persuasion? My research (with Jon Krosnick) tested this question in a survey of a nationally representative sample of American adults. Studying predictions about sea level rise caused by global warming, I found that scientists expressing uncertainty as a range of possible futures increased the public's trust in environmental scientists and improved attitudes toward adaptation policies. But accompanying these predictions with the acknowledgment that some uncertainty is irreducible undermined these effects. For a published paper on this research click here, and watch a video of us presenting these findings at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Lauren C. Howe
Here's a sampling of some of my lines of research:
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