A scientist’s opinion : Interview with Prof. Bobby Duffy about PEriTiA

Interview with Bobby Duffy, leader of PEriTiA’s data collection and analysis team

Prof Bobby DuffyProf Bobby Duffy, Director of The Policy Institute at King’s College London, leads the PERITIA’s data collection and analysis. His responsibility is to ensure the integrity of survey design and analytical approach. He has spent much of his career studying levels and drivers of individual and institutional trust, including as Managing Director of the Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute and Global Director of the Ipsos Social Research Institute. He has also recently published a book, Perils of Perception: Why We’re Wrong About Nearly Everything, which explores the causes of our misperceptions of social realities, across up to 40 countries globally.

The PEriTiA project aims to explore the conditions under which people trust the expertise that shapes public policy, and in a way it is a continuation of the work you’ve been doing at Ipsos MORI. What makes PEriTiA special?

The multi-disciplinary, multi-country structure of the team will provide such a richer insight into the nature, evolution and drivers of trust in expertise. I was truly delighted to meet the team in Dublin, and see what true experts in different fields of study will bring to the project. I learnt a lot from colleagues, and I think we’re going to move on our understanding of trust, by combining these different perspectives. (He refers to the different views of PEriTiA’s team, which includes philosophers, psychologists, policy experts, social and natural scientists, ethicists, media specialists and civil society organizations.)

Why have you chosen climate change and climate science as case study?

Climate science is such a crucial area of expertise, given the perilous position the planet is in – and more than that, trust in expertise is vital, given the need for individuals and other stakeholders to shift their behaviour, urgently. Trust is therefore vital, as is understanding where distrust comes from and how it can be addressed.

Finally, from the title of your book Perils of Perception: Why We’re Wrong About Nearly Everything, it seems that you don’t have much trust in our decision making processes, why is that and how can PEriTiA improve on that at a social level?

That’s a good question! The conclusion of my book is not that facts are useless, it’s just that the presumption that we can just tell people they’re wrong, here is the correct information – whether that’s on vaccines, the economic impact of immigration or threats to the environment – and expect them to just accept them and change their point of view is just not how it works. Our views of the world are tied up in our own identities and emotional reactions. This is exactly why a detailed, nuanced study of trust is so vital and useful. It’s not at odds with the book, but exactly the type of study we need to be doing, that recognises the emotional components of trust.

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