Psychology of credibility: why do we believe famous people more?
Sep 14, 2023
Many people have spent several years studying to be able to have expert knowledge on the most varied topics.
However, and despite the fact that there are many true expert voices that can be consulted, there are those who, despite not Having the proper education, when they give their opinion about things, they exercise a dangerous power of influence over many people.
Actors, singers, politicians and other public figures, with their not-so-expert opinion, can generate a real change of values in society, and it is not always for the better. Let's see the psychology of credibility, that is, the influence behind these phenomena.
- Related article: "What is social psychology?"
The Psychology of Credibility: Celebrities vs. Experts
Each one can have a very varied vision on all kinds of topics in this world. Colors depend on taste, as they say in popular culture. One can give an opinion about how beautiful a painting is, how good a paella tastes, how badly a dress looks on a friend... But what you should be careful about is giving your opinion or stating things you don't know about and, unfortunately, this is done too often. slight. When a famous actor or actress does it, for example, the impact it can have on society is notable.
Although in this world there are all kinds of qualified experts, such as doctors, psychologists, sociologists, biologists, pharmacists and a long etcetera, there are many times in which The well-founded opinions of these professionals go unnoticed compared to those of other people, less experts, but better known.. In fact, public figures such as singers, actors, politicians or YouTubers have a greater impact on the mind and collective culture when they give their opinions that are not those of those professionals who know about a topic in concrete.
The problem with giving opinions comes when we give opinions about things that are proven. Science is the set of knowledge that is responsible for giving us answers to big questions, in addition to finding the methods to guarantee the improvement, well-being and survival of our species. The problem is that there are many people who, without having studied a specific topic in depth, dare to express opinions contrary to what science has shown.
This might not seem like a big deal, but taking into account that we live in a strongly interconnected society, in which Information Technologies Information and Communication (ICT) allow us to share our opinion very quickly, the opinion of just one person, in the To the extent that I can share it with many others and that it is a little important, it can now be seen as an authentic dogma, an authentic truth. true.
Charles Darwin vs. George Clooney and Emma Watson, who is more credible?
A study, carried out by Arnocky's group and his colleagues in 2018, studied the influence that famous people's opinions had on the general public about the theory of evolution. In this study, which involved four experiments, the researchers discovered that famous public figures, such as George Clooney or Emma Watson exercised a great power of persuasion on topics that they did not really master, much greater than that power compared to real people. experts.
For example, if they recommended a book about evolution, they would have greater credibility with their fans than if a real biologist recommended it. At the same time, if these two actors recommended a text that defended a thesis contrary to the evolutionary one, that is, the Christian creation myth, they would also have quite a bit of acceptance. That is, whether they recommended a pro-evolution or an anti-evolution text, they exerted a corresponding influence in favor of one of those two positions on the audience.
The reason why Arnocky and colleagues decided to choose evolution as a topic to study is because of its importance in the educational and social sphere. Evolutionary theses, at least in developed countries, are part of the educational curriculum, along with various other topics. The objective of science in education is not only to expand the knowledge of the population, but also to protect it from pseudoscientific beliefs. that can be very harmful to them.
Although this is the objective of pro-science education, a quite worrying trend has been seen in the general population regarding very varied scientific topics, with support for the theory of evolution being one of the most asked aspects in surveys sociological. Although it is part of the educational curriculum, support for the idea that Darwin's theory is applicable to the human species barely exceeds 60% in countries such as Canada, the United States or the United Kingdom United.
Although the majority of the population supports this idea, a not insignificant minority, close to 40%, is opposed. This minority, with varied sociodemographic characteristics, is strengthened or greatly influenced when the famous person on duty, such as Chuck Norris or Kirk Cameron, expresses his opinion against the evolution. Despite not being experts in anything beyond being actors, these two characters have given their opinion and contributed to spread beliefs contrary to scientific evidence, based on ignorance of what evolution.
Also We have cases of people who exert a much more powerful influence on young people. This is the case of Canadian actor Justin Bieber, who questioned the plausibility of the Big Bang. For Bieber, it was not possible that a big explosion could have resulted in the Universe as we know it today. day, comparing it to as if someone put bullion in a box, shook it and had, as a result, a rolex of gold.
- You may be interested: "The 8 steps of the scientific method"
But why are famous people so credible?
In order to explain the psychology of credibility in this context, we must explain how public figures are so important to the collective mind. Celebrities, taking advantage of their visibility and influence, give their opinions and people consider them more credible for an apparently simple reason: they are role models, people in whom many of us would like look like us His opinion is seen as a trait that one wants to acquire and there are many who incorporate it into their repertoire of beliefs..
It should be said that this is not always the case. For example, if we are a fan of a singer who has said that evolution is simply a hoax but we have studied Darwin's theory and we know what evidence there is (fossil record, homologous limbs in different species, genetics...) it is possible that what happens to us is that we enter into a psychological conflict, or rather, dissonance cognitive. Not because we have a different opinion, or know that the singer is wrong, should we necessarily stop listening to him, but it is possible that he will not leave us indifferent.
- You may be interested: "The 10 types of beliefs, and how they speak about who we are"
Credibility can be dangerous
Believing that the theory of evolution is not real, although it is a sign of scientific ignorance, is not necessarily dangerous. Don't you think that all organisms on the planet have a common origin and have adapted to events? No problem, you don't believe it and that's it. The problem is when hoaxes directly affect health..
In recent years, New Age movements have been gaining a lot of strength. It may be because of their mysticism, because they are exotic and strange and, since human beings love novelty, we approach them like flies to honey. But, despite the nature of the average human being, the influence of characters who have encouraged belief in pseudoscience, such as Gwyneth Paltrow, is not at all ignorable.
Others go into the world of conspiracies, such as the footballer Íker Casillas doubting that human beings would step on the Moon, despite the fact that the Apollo mission left laser reflectors there to demonstrate it over the years, or actors like Jim Carrey and Robert De Niro who questioned the beneficial effects of vaccines, siding with those who believe they cause autism. Although we can overlook the Moon a bit, we can't ignore the vaccines.
In recent years, the number of “good” parents who have deprived their children of a necessary vaccination has been increasing. This is not just bad for their offspring, who are more exposed to diseases that are, in fact, potentially preventable. Other people who cannot be vaccinated due to various medical conditions are at risk of anti-vaccine parents pass on diseases and cannot defend themselves against them because they do not have a good system immunological. Furthermore, it can be deduced from this that anti-vaxxers would rather see their children dead before they become autistic.