Trust in experts is waning: 4 thoughts for healthcare leaders

Public trust in experts, not only in the medical field but across sectors, is eroding, according to a report in the Chicago Booth Review, a publication of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Here are four thoughts for healthcare leaders:

1. Part of the shrinking trust in experts, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, may be because experts' knowledge of the situation has changed. For example, Anthony Fauci, MD, the nation's top medical expert on the pandemic, along with other public health officials, first told Americans they shouldn't worry too much about COVID-19 and advised against wearing masks. But as more information about COVID-19 came to light, they called for mask-wearing and social distancing.

2. Research from public relations firm Edelman found that the public's trust in scientists, physicians, and national and international health officials fell slightly between March and May of this year, according to the Chicago Booth Review. Americans placed even less trust in chief executives, government leaders and journalists, according to Edelman's findings. 

3. Polarization is widening the gap between experts and nonexperts, according to another study cited by the Chicago Booth Review. Researchers who studied trust of economic experts in Europe found when respondents were told about a consensus among experts, they were more likely to agree with experts if it aligned with their interests. If respondents weren't interested in those topics, or had previous distrust in experts, they moved further in the opposite direction.

4. Ultimately, experts should make a greater attempt to remember the human experience when sharing their information, the report said.

"The gap between epidemiologists and economists, as between nonexperts and experts, can be wide — but much is to be gained by bridging it. Experts in any field can make mistakes by failing to recognize the reality in which others live, which affects how their advice will land," according to the report. 

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