Washington: Social media has become an inevitable part of everyone’s lives, be it celebs or scientists. A new study has found that scientists who are regular in posting their selfies on their Instagram feed are more trusted than others. The study states that scientists usually get respect but people lack trust in them. “Scientists are famously competent—people report we’re smart, curious, lab nerds—but they’re silent about scientists’ more human qualities,” said Susan Fiske of Princeton University.
Trust depends on two perceived characteristics of an individual or social group: competence and warmth. Perceptions of competence involve the belief that members of a particular social group are intelligent and have the skills to achieve their goals. Perceptions of warmth involve the belief that the members of this group also have benevolent goals, or that they are friendly, altruistic, honest and share common values with people outside of their group. Co-author Becky Carmichael said, “Social media channels, like Instagram, provide an exciting opportunity for scientists to improve their public image.”
She added, “We wondered whether seeing the faces of friendly, honest scientists sharing glimpses of their everyday work in the science lab or field could help change the problematic stereotypes that scientists are competent but not warm.” The team launched a research project popularly referred to as ‘ScientistsWhoSelfie’. Each participant was shown three types of images: a scientific setting, a bioreactor on the lab bench or a plant experiment set-up in a greenhouse with no humans in any of the images but with captions attributing the images to either male or female scientists by name; a smiling male scientist looking at the camera in the same scientific setting and similarly a female scientist’s picture.
People who saw images including a scientist’s smiling face, or “scientist selfies,” evaluated the scientists in the images and scientists in general as significantly warmer than people who saw control images or images of scientific environments or equipment that did not include a person.