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The poing program is produced by the University of Michigan broadcasting service under a grant in aid from the National Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. The communication media's role in science. A program from the series human behavior social and medical research produced by the University of Michigan broadcasting service with special assistance from the Mental Health Research Institute of the University of Michigan. These programs have been developed from interviews with men and women who have the too often unglamorous job of basic research. Research in medicine the physical sciences social sciences and the behavioral sciences. Occasionally you will hear what may seem like strange or unfamiliar SA These are the sounds of the participants office laboratory or clinic where the interviews were recorded. Today you will hear the views of some of the nation's leading scientists regarding the public sophistication their apathy and the communications responsibility.
The people you will hear are Dr. Russell of the Cleveland Institute of Technology Dr. and Mrs. Bernard diamond of San Francisco. Dr. Harry Calvin Jr. of the University of Chicago. Dr. Ralph W. Tyler who is director of the Center for the Advanced Study in behavioral science at Palo Alto California. Dr. Raymond a bower of Harvard University's Business School. And Dr. Max Milliken of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge Massachusetts. And Dr. Alex Buffet's of the University of Stanford in Stanford California. And my name is Glenn Phillips. There has been much talk over the general public sophistication to assimilate and understand general scientific investigation. Even their right to know the existing public apathy and the resultant question of the role that communications can play in helping the layperson to better understand the scientific
question. These comments were offered to the prior question. The first public sophistication Dr. Russell a cloth Case Institute of Technology in Cleveland said this. I don't think the problem is so much one of the characteristics of the public as it is a of the characteristics of the scientist. I think that we've come to realize that it's hard to be clear and simple in self-expression and to be complicated and obscure. It takes a lot more time to say something simply than it does in a complex way. You know the old quotation from Lord Chesterfield who once wrote to his son. If I had had more time I would have written less. Well I think this is the same kind of problem that arises in scientific communication to the public. I don't think that on many of these issues we have sufficient understanding in science so that we can discuss them simply. But where we do have such
understanding I think in many instances the scientist isn't sufficiently motivated to try to convey it to the public. I have the feeling in the main that the responsibility for effective communication here lies with the scientists more than it does with the public I certainly think they're capable of understanding most of the fundamental ideas and consequences of contemporary developments in science. I don't think the scientists is developed as yet effective ways of communicating to the public although there has certainly been outstanding exceptions to this statement. DR ALEX Babel this of Stanford University stated. Yeah I'm not worried about the public I'm worried about the the writers and the speakers. A good deal of the research that's done is possible. To present clearly and simply without being inaccurate. This takes a much greater mastery however. And and a good deal of skill. I don't I don't worry too much about the ability of the public to understand.
As I do about the ability of the researchers to write clearly. And understandably in San Francisco Dr. and Mrs. Bernard diamond concurred with the feelings of Dr. Bao Bullis and Dr a cog in their feeling that the public was sophisticated enough to assimilate this information. Yes I think Shell First of all the public as a whole has an enormous interest in the behavior of 5. They may not recognize their interest under the name of behavior all five may be suspicious of a label but by and large anything which has to do with human conduct psychological or. Sociological there's always a very eager. Public and they can't seem to get enough of it. They are I think highly disposed
Karzi accept and. Almost anything that behavioral science has to offer if it is interpreted to them. Laugh all they can comprehend. I think it's terribly unfortunate that the behavioral scientists tend to talk. And esoteric vocabularies do indeed use concepts in such a way that it is very difficult now for the public a whole as a whole but even their fellow scientists in a two to one. Down here this problem of communication can be shot down and I think that the public would be very this fall or just by anything that their hero find would have to offer. To the end of the day. Communications media newspapers radio
TV actually do not give in now. My own feeling is that the public is willing and ready to accept and they don't want any information. That. You can find in the paper and. Radio and hear. From these remarks the consensus seems to be then that the public is sophisticated enough and the fault rather lies with the scientist and the communicator. We hear too that the public does not always have the right to know. Here is just one comment by Dr. A cough on this subject. Well I'm not sure what Wright means I certainly think that they have an obligation to know what's going on here since it's going to affect them and it is affecting them considerably and increasingly on a daily basis. In the sense they have the right since to a large extent basic research in this country is supported by the government. And since the funds that the government uses are public funds the public certainly has a right to
know how these funds are being used why they're being used and what are the consequences of these uses. In this sense they certainly have a right to know what's going on. Dr. Harry Calvin Jr. of the University of Chicago addressed himself to the question of public apathy when he said that as their famous apathy it was a system of public I'm almost out of questions lately. I think scientific questions as well as on. Various questions of public affairs is always a surprise I think to the person hasn't bumped into this before I realize that almost no question no matter how apparently prominent is what I want at least a third of the public will not have an opinion but without even a heard of the problem. A person even during the heyday of the McCarthy hearings there was a third of the public that really had no orientation towards McCarthy or I would NOT couldn't suggest his name and so forth. There was a substantial number people don't know who the presidential candidates are that got that kind of remove
then and less spectacular that any given question. There must be a large by the public doesn't in fact have an opinion. That can be regarded as quite an alarming phenomena itself as indicating the American public is going to sleep on its feet. Democracy doesn't work because the public isn't interested enough. My guess is it's probably the range of things in which we hope the public will have opinions that shows us that how good an opinion you have on the tariff question at the moment was immigration policy and farm subsidies as will likely be asked about and union featherbedding are likely to ask the public are expecting to have opinions on a range of questions when we honestly catalog our own interests. We find we don't have opinions and a considerable number of those either are we would find it rather easy because I think the public would form an opinion should the question suddenly become critical and then it moves into a public debate. The public gets cues from the debaters and so forth and then it forms an opinion for the time being a sufficient opinion perhaps to keep the process working. But sensationally true that the incredible number of questions a public has at the
moment. No alive opinion and no real concern I think that in the sense of active day to day concerns. So we now come then to the communications role. What can they do. These were the comments of some of the gentlemen whom I interview first doctor a cause stated I think two things could be done and I think you're doing one of them now. I feel that. To the extent that scientists could be brought into across the table conversation with educated about lay public they could develop effective methods of communication. And. This ought to be encouraged not only on educational programs but on the public the more readily accessible television and radio. There's an awful lot of time that's being taken up with a lot of trash on TV and radio and everybody's been pointing this out for a considerable period. And it
seems to me that. Some type of concerted effort is necessary to make the commercial stations recognize certain obligations to the public in return for the tremendous demands they make on their ears and eyes in terms of nonsensical commercials over extended periods of time. The other thing it seems to me that could be done particularly by television since it's a portable medium is to take the camera into the place where the scientist works rather than or into a set so that people can begin to get an idea of what the scientist looks like how he works what he works with and dispel some of the mysteries associated with the laboratory and removes some of the mysticism associated with them. Among other things I would think that if elementary classes at the university level were televised not staged classes but actual classes as they occur with questions as they arise from students that the public could receive a
liberal education and could make demands on the scientists which I think would improve both his thinking and his ability to express himself. I facetiously objected to Dr A cough combat that television was more portable than radio particularly in view of the fact that I had just traveled several thousand miles with portable radio equipment to collect material for these programs. He then agreed that both were quite portable indeed. Moving on the director of the Behavioral Science Center in Palo Alto California Dr. Ralph Tyler stated these views about the communications role in science and the communication media I assume are responsible for two kinds of developments. Ron is the one in which they have already made great advances namely the improvement of the technical nature of communications the development of radio and television for example that can be clear that can reach a
larger audience that can have a quality that makes it possible for one to be just as though he were talking to the person or seeing him direct. These qualities of the technical nature of communications are of course great greatly improved and are being improved all the time. This is important because a poor quality of communication a poor television image for example may fail to get across a message because it's so distorted and so difficult to comprehend. A second area is in this experimentation with the the way of giving the message and studying the effects upon the target audience the persons for whom the message was intended. This kind of experimentation with a a writer range of things it seems to me is somewhat lacking in the communications industry in this country. There is a tendency to say the things that
already get across like the types of programs that people already like. Even though they may get boring in times because there is no new development but the need for example for getting much better quality of educational programmes things that really carry authentic messages that require careful understanding how to do that. In what sort of language and what sort of format. How to follow that up with types of discussion groups or other things to make the message better understood and to result in further thinking on the part of the audience. This sort of thing I suspect is much less developed than is research on the technical media themselves. Professor Raymond Bauer of the Business School of Harvard University stated. Well. As you undoubtedly know one of your first problems is to reach an audience. The mere fact that you get a program on the air doesn't by any means ensure.
The fact that people are going to listen to it so that. Quite to the contrary of being a very sticky academician on the score. I think that the skills of the communicator. The professional communicator and the mass media are very much in demand here to. Get these things in such form that they will indeed. Tap the interests of people and get people to listen. It was absolutely the first step. The second step of course is to preserve the integrity of the. Information which I think can be done. Without. Keeping things in jargon form. There's. No general concept that I know of in the social sciences or. It may be true and I the natural sciences which Kant pic's expressed. In straight English providing you take the time and the pains to do it. The
value of jargon and. Mathematical and symbolic formulations is that they enable you to. Handle things much more efficiently than they would. In ordinary descriptive English. So I don't. See any inherent barrier to. The sort of thing that we're doing right now. Your main trouble probably is going to be to get people like me to say things in a sufficiently interesting fashion so that you can keep your audience on the air. From Stanford University Dr. Alex Babel is felt this way. If. You use these media were more available. So that the kinds of findings the kind of work that's being done. Could be displayed. More easily than. By simply writing experiments for publication and professional journals I think this might help. I am not sure what position
people who are. In positions of responsibility respect these media they are the heads of broadcasting chains or the editors of newspapers. What responsibility they ought to have for selecting what should be presented. But it might well be considered part of their function in society to make it possible for. And here it's difficult to. Do express oneself without somatic difficulties but if one could make it possible for findings to be presented in these media without bias and selection. I think this would be helpful. And also in California the diamonds had these views regarding the communication media. First Mrs Diamond said well I would like to see. It commanded someone to put it in print and.
Their time. Be devoted to this question. And Lou some of the motive he says have some. Calm and this passionate discussion of. What. Takes place. That may not be quite so sensational but I think that the general public is really quite interested I think the general public is very much interested in him deprive the jury process for instance and they do not get it right. I don't think you have to leave out the gruesome and the sensational because you're depriving yourself one of the best avenues of communication. It's precisely these elements of strong emotion that I think permit communication perhaps a deeper level than would ordinarily be possible and I doubt that the newspaper that the sensationalized
south and news would have very much of a reading public. Seems to me that the goal here is to integrate. The knowledge that comes out of behavioral science in to the sensational aspects of everyday life that creates great interest around has its great interest. And to use them as a medium of communication so that every day the same murder trial with all of its sensational headlines and so forth it is just nothing but sensation and nothing has been accomplished. But if there is say a social message a message goes along with it with gory details then this is a way of getting arousing public interest and getting your message across. And some might I suppose analogous to the techniques of advertising that if you've got a
commercial message and have to be in a framework which creates interest on the part of the listener well so I think the behavioral scientist has a message and he can get this across within me framework of those things that the public is interested in. In response to Dr. Dimond's views on sensationalism in newspapers I reminded him that certainly three of the most widely read papers were not sensational. The New York Times The Christian Science Monitor in The Wall Street Journal he replied. Well there they are are less frightened less patient. Than the typical cat was her favorite and many others. But I don't think that they as. One would write out the scientific paper and then they still retain elements of the human drama. And this is what people are interested in and I think the social scientists can retain
anything dramatic elements which have great appeal. Social Sciences is concerned with human behavior and human behavior is often dramatic sensational gruesome horrible and the like for all of the sexy and it deals with a rather deep passion and deep emotion. And if you. Limit the. Scientific study of human behavior to just dry statistics here you're leaving out most of human behavior. So I would be inclined to accept these things that I think exist in the terms that they exist and kind of add to the truck from them. So I have my thought I have no objection to what goes on in the same the sensational murder trial as long as
the reading public gets that additional element I think that the murder trial for example one of the very best ways of educating the public and say some of the basic principles of psychiatry as to criminal offenders and this if this isn't the same thing which is quite sensational. People are much better and also on the subject of the communication role in science. Dr. Harry Calvin Jr. stated I've been impressed that every take the airing out of a general area of new kinds of social science studies in behavioral science studies I've been impressed that the last five or six years seem to me to suggest that there is a pretty good public market for a lot of things and some writers who have a flair for writing so as to be accessible to the public. Like David Reese Minarik from I think of it played a real role in not popularizing so much as in getting their series ideas across to the public so that some of their terms for
example become almost household figures of speech at least for a wide number of people. Outside of the campuses directly. Books like Rogen ization and status seekers again indicate that a kind of popularizing of social science findings is now finding a market. On the other hand I think more could be done by quite a bit than is done now but. Reporting on some form of social science enthusiasms and research in general is I guess although I don't. Pretend of taking a real inventory of this the physical sciences. The hard sciences still must get an enormous amount of coverage is against it. The social science findings perhaps what is a substitute is the kind of advice the love lorn column of the press as you get a kind of really amateur advice about personal problems which gets featured about the censor reporting on serious scientific
work in the social sciences seems to me pretty low. Again Kinsey comes to mind. There was no doubt a couple of years there were again a quite serious work partly because of his spectacular subject matter did receive a real public play and broke through I mean the public had some idea of what was going on there and what kind of work this was as well as I think they heard a lot about it in the press. The final participant is Dr Max Milliken of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his views were these. Well I think there's a big job to be done. I hate to use the word but I think it's the right word of popularizing the social sciences. There isn't very much of this. There's a great deal of attention put but the best people in the communications field in newspaper work in radio work in television. Even to some extent in the films into putting forward the central concepts of the natural sciences which are very much now in the public mind since the atomic bomb and Sputnik and all of
this. If. I suspect that the ratio of effort that's put into popularizing the natural sciences as compared with the amount of effort in the natural sciences is very much greater than is the case in the social sciences not just absolutely but proportionately. Now social science is in a phase currently in the early stages of attempting to make itself precise and this means that the social sciences are terribly concerned the professional social scientists are terribly concerned with getting just the right language to use in discussing their problems. There's an enormous amount there for in the professional social science literature of what appears to man in the street. Even the intelligent reader to be gobbledygook to be an unnecessary hair splitting hair splitting is scientifically absolutely necessary but it gets in the way of the communication of social science methods techniques and results to the general public.
And I think there's a big job to be done here which I'd like to see the communications media try to take on. We haven't made an awful lot of progress in the social sciences but the popular image is of a great deal less progress than we have in fact made and I think this could be corrected. We conclude today with a somewhat personal question perhaps. I asked Dr. Milliken if this type programmed this entire series was heading in the right direction. And he said Yes I think it's going in exactly the right direction. You see I really think you need experts in communication to tackle this kind of a subject. Unlike some of my colleagues I think the average researcher in the social sciences the average professional in these fields is a very poor popularizer and communicator because the things that most concern him are the precision and scientific validity of what he's doing and this is what he's trying to explain.
This is what the public wants to know what the public wants to know is what have we learned from all this. What can we do now better that we. You couldn't do before because social scientists have worked on the problem and you haven't had the kind of imagination what you would have been a lot of educational television programs where professors are set up in front of cameras or microphones to talk about their work. But there hasn't been the kind of professional attention that's gone into this that's going into the really very skillful popularisation of science of the kind that has appeared in this series that Frank Capra's been putting on about the sun and the weather and this this range of things where a lot of the best communications talent has been put into trying to put these things in clear and simple form and emphasize the things that the ordinary listener really wants to hear.
Dr. Milliken has been joined by other leading scientist in this discussion of the communications role in science Those heard with Dr. Milliken where Dr. Russell a cough Dr. and Mrs. Bernard diamond Dr. Harry Calvin Jr.. Dr. Ralph W. Tyler. Dr. Raymond a Bauer and Professor Alex ballots. Next week you will hear Dr. James G Miller Dr. Ralph Girard Dr. Anatol Rapaport and Dr. Merrill flood in a roundtable discussion as they discuss the future of behavioral science. On the next program from the series human behavior social and medical research. Glenn Phillips speaking asking that you join us next week and thanking you for being with us at this time. This program has been produced by the University of Michigan broadcasting service under a grant in aid from the National Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is the NEA E.B.
Radio Network.
Behavioral science research
Communications media's role in science
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University of Michigan
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program focuses on the media's role in science. Guests are: Russell L. Ackoff, Ph.D.; Alex Bavelas, ph.D; Bernard Diamond, M.D.; Anne Diamond, attorney; Harry Kalven, Jr., M.D.; Ralph W. Tyler, Ph.D.; and Raymond A. Bauer, Ph.D
Series Description
A documentary series on behavioral science and its role in understanding human health.
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Host: Cowlin, Bert
Interviewee: Tyler, Ralph W. (Ralph Winfred), 1902-1994
Interviewee: Diamond, Bernard L. (Bernard Lee), 1912-
Interviewee: Ackoff, Russell Lincoln, 1919-2009
Interviewee: Bauer, Raymond Augustine, 1916-1977
Interviewee: Bavelas, Alex
Interviewee: Diamond, Anne
Interviewee: Kalven, Harry
Producing Organization: University of Michigan
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 61-36-24 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:12
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Chicago: “Behavioral science research; Communications media's role in science,” 1961-11-19, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed March 2, 2024,
MLA: “Behavioral science research; Communications media's role in science.” 1961-11-19. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. March 2, 2024. <>.
APA: Behavioral science research; Communications media's role in science. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from