Mother Jones has an article today written by Chris Mooney summarizing a recent study published in Nature by a team of psychologists that looked into how experts communicate science. Although not surprising, perhaps it signals a simple way we could help solve the problem: stop using words likely and very likely, and start using the actual numbers.
Perhaps the most telling excerpt:
According to Budescu’s research, while the IPCC intends for “very likely” to mean a greater than 90 percent likelihood, that’s not necessarily the message the average person hears. Instead, when Budesco and his colleagues asked members of the public to assign a probability to the term “very likely,” the mean estimate people gave was just 62 percent.