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Communicating science-based recommendations with memorable and actionable guidelines

Ratner, Rebecca K., Riis, Jason
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2014 v.111 no.Supplement 4 pp. 13634-13641
USDA, case studies, guidelines, memory, nutrition science, psychology, United States
For many domains of basic and applied science, a key set of scientific facts is well established and there is a need for public action in light of those facts. However, individual citizens do not consistently follow science-based recommendations, even when they accept the veracity of the advice. To address this challenge, science communicators need to develop a guideline that individuals can commit to memory easily and act on straightforwardly at moments of decision. We draw on research from psychology to discuss several characteristics that will enhance a guideline’s memorability and actionability and illustrate using a case study from the US Department of Agriculture’s communications based on nutrition science. We conclude by discussing the importance of careful research to test whether any given guideline is memorable and actionable by the intended target audience.