Science - September 9, 2010

Trust in the scientist declines

Joris Tielens

Consumers do not make food choices in a rational way and trust the scientist less and less.

Consumers who are well informed about the safety of chicken ought to draw the rational conclusion that they can eat it without any problems. At least, that's what policy makers assume.
Not true, concludes environmental sociologist Michiel de Krom from a study into consumer behaviour. According to him, buying behaviour is not based on figures but on the relationships among people. For example, a shopkeeper who has the trust of a customer can easily put aside all rational arguments, says De Krom.
Furthermore, the general trust of consumers in scientists has gone down, as shown by his research.De Krom points out that this is caused by public differences of opinion among researchers. Added to this, scientists are professing more and more openly social and economic interests in their statements. This is fine from a scientific point of view, says De Krom, 'but it undermines their neutral position'.