Yeo, S. K., Becker, A. B., Michael A. Cacciatore, Anderson, A. A., & Patel, K. (in press). “Humor can increase perceived communicator effectiveness regardless of race, gender, and expertise—If you’re funny enough,” Science Communication.
Abstract: Across a wide range of issues and a variety of sources, scientific information often gets lost in translation, failing to properly inform, educate, and engage publics in a meaningful way. But science communication is like a wine—it’s better when it’s outside the box. One promising tactic for more effective scientific communication is the use of humor to both engage and educate less interested and knowledgeable citizens on important topics. Here, we investigate whether the identity of a speaker influences perceptions of their effectiveness at connecting with and engaging public audiences. We conducted a 2 (gender: female vs. male) × 2 (race: black speaker vs. white speaker) × 2 (credentials: scientist vs. comedian) between-subjects experiment and found that race and gender of the source, relative to their credentials, were not significant factors for predicting perceptions of communicator effectiveness. We also found that experienced humor, or mirth, moderated the relationship between the speaker’s credentials and perceived effectiveness. We discuss the implications of our findings for science communication research and practice.