Public health reasoning: a logical view of trust

Cummings, L., 2014. Public health reasoning: a logical view of trust. Cogency, 6 (1), pp. 33-62. ISSN 0718-8285


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The public has a pact with the experts who deliver public health. That pact can be characterized as a relationship of trust in which the public trusts health experts to act in its best interests in return for its adherence to recommendations and other advice. This relationship clearly has emotional elements, as evidenced by strong feelings of anger and betrayal when public health recommendations are shown to be wrong. But it also has rational or logical components which are less often acknowledged by commentators. In this paper, these components are examined with special emphasis on the role of authority arguments in mediating the trust relationship between health experts and the public. It is contended that these arguments function as cognitive heuristics in that they facilitate decision-making in the absence of expert knowledge. A questionnaire study of public health reasoning was conducted in 879 members of the public. Participants were asked to consider a number of public health scenarios in which various arguments from authority were employed. Epistemic conditions, known to be associated with the rational warrant of these arguments, were systematically varied across these scenarios. Quantitative and qualitative data analyses revealed that subjects are adept at recognizing the conditions under which arguments from authority are more or less rationally warranted. The trust relationship at the heart of public health has logical components which lay people are capable of rationally evaluating during public health deliberations. This rational capacity should be exploited by experts during public health communication.

Item Type: Journal article
Alternative Title: Razonamiento de la Salud Pública: un punto de vista lógico de la confianza
Publication Title: Cogency
Creators: Cummings, L.
Publisher: Universidad Diego Portales
Date: 2014
Volume: 6
Number: 1
ISSN: 0718-8285
Divisions: Schools > School of Arts and Humanities
Record created by: EPrints Services
Date Added: 09 Oct 2015 10:05
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2015 12:36

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