Your New BFF: Brain Food Fridays

Brain Book Friday graphic

Welcome to Brain Food Friday (BFF), a monthly helping of bite-sized morsels featuring the latest research on communication and behavior change.

This edition serves up a diverse spread of topics, from scientists’ role in public trust to the dynamics of TikTok.

 Science and Public Health

 Growing Public Scrutiny Regarding Scientists
We saw distrust in science rise after the COVID-19 pandemic. Now studies confirm that there is a major change in how the U.S. public views science and scientists.

  • Conflict of Interest: The public is questioning whether scientists’ research might be influenced by their personal values and biases — potentially for good reason. When 1,638 U.S. adults were asked, “when a study produces a finding that runs counter to the interests of the organization running the study, which is more likely to happen? Scientists will publish the finding or scientists will not publish the finding.” 70% of those polled believed that scientists would not publish the findings.
  • Full Disclosure: Despite increased distrust in scientists, the public still believes scientists can release reliable information. However, there is an increased demand that scientists disclose their sources of funding and publish studies where results don’t necessarily match the anticipated outcomes.
  • New Evidence: Beyond transparency, the study showed a desire for scientists to update studies and revise their perspectives when fresh evidence comes to light.
  • Key Takeaway: There is an opportunity to regain public trust in science, but researchers and those communicating about research must increase their dedication to transparency in conducting, promoting, and critiquing research.

Digital Message Framing: Impact on Medical Follow Through for Older Americans

Researchers studied a digital campaign by Maccabi Healthcare Services to determine whether message framing in follow-up text messages motivates positive action from their older patients.

  • The Challenge: Health care needs increase as we age, and compliance with various tests and exams is critical to continued health.
  • Texting Isn’t Working: When researchers looked at the results of a large-scale digital outreach campaign for patients ages 50–74, they found that framing health care-related text messages in a standard way made no difference in the rate of compliance with needed tests and check-ups.
  • Is It the Frame or the Channel? The study found that shorter subject lines and the use of email were more successful at increasing open rates for older patients.
  • Key Takeaway: Strategic communicators know that among a patient audience, there are various factors to consider in messaging, including age, income, culture, language, technology use and more. What works for one subgroup might not work for another. It’s important to understand every patient group and adapt strategies to their specific habits and needs.

 Digital and Social Media

TikTok Trends: Exploring Adult Usage Patterns in the U.S.

Exploring the usage patterns of adult TikTok users in the U.S., a new report sheds light on content creation dynamics and consumption behaviors, providing valuable insights on how communicators can incorporate the platform into outreach strategies.

  • Understanding the Adult TikTok Audience: Most adult TikTok users are consuming content, rather than creating it.
  • Content Creation: A small percentage of users create most of the content on TikTok, which means points of view might be limited on many subjects. Communicators have an opportunity to add to the diverse voices on the platform.
  • Algorithmic Optimization: Most users are pleased with what the algorithm serves up on the “For You” page. That makes it incredibly important for new content to reflect trends and utilize diverse hashtags.
  • Key Takeaway: Adult U.S. users use TikTok primarily for content consumption rather than creation, even though a small percentage of users produce most of the platform’s content. Does this mean more opportunities for organizations and advocates to add diverse voices on the platform?

Social Media News Consumption–An Evolving Landscape

The PEW Research Center dives into the changing environment of social media news consumption, raising questions about accuracy and reliability. Despite the rise of social media for news, the preference for conventional news channels highlights the significance of forming partnerships to convey credible information in the face of misinformation and disinformation.

  • Trust and credibility concerns: 40% of those who get news from social media say inaccuracy is their biggest pet peeve, with others citing low quality as a concern.
  • The workaround: Even if people are getting their news from social media, they’re turning back to the news outlets directly for more in-depth coverage, as well as to verify quality and sources.
  • Ages and stages: Those under 30 prefer to get their news from social media, while those over 65 more regularly turn directly to news outlets.
  • Key takeaway: Despite the popularity of social media for news consumption, Americans still prefer news outlets for certain types of information — a welcome confirmation of the need for an increasingly shrinking news industry. In this era of mis- and disinformation concerns, communications professionals can feel confident in investing in partnerships with traditional news outlets to leverage their credibility and reach in disseminating important messages to the public.

A New Form of Digital Inequality?

The increasing dependence on social media platforms as primary sources of information is leading to the emergence of “news deserts,” particularly among individuals facing challenges related to access, resources, or civic skills. This phenomenon is notably prevalent among men and older adults.

  • Incidental news exposure: Engaging with news on social media can occur with deliberate intent, such as when users actively seek topics and information. However, users may also encounter news that they would not have actively sought out, known as incidental news exposure. This can happen through shared posts from mutual friends or suggested content from the platform’s algorithm.
  • Loss of opportunity: These news deserts signify a new form of digital inequality, which could reduce citizen awareness and participation in democratic processes by eliminating opportunities for incidental news exposure.

Key takeaway: More attention and research is needed to understand how to better engage individuals who are being left behind by the evolving news landscape. For communicators, it signals the need to create audience-centric strategies that can reach outside of the social media universe.

Check back next month for more tasty treats from your new BFF! Have a wonderful weekend!