Communicating research to broad audiences is a fundamental task for scientists. Art is hypothesized to be an effective medium for improving public perception of research, as well as student comprehension and retention of scientific discoveries. To test these hypotheses, we first created an interactive art exhibit with 20 original pieces aimed at communicating findings from two recently published papers. Next, to test whether art improves public perception of research, we asked visitors of the art show to fill out surveys about their perception of research before and after visiting the exhibit. Next, using content quizzes, we tested whether interacting with art allowed ecology students to better retain and comprehend scientific findings compared to reading scientific abstracts. Participation in the art exhibit caused a 20% improvement in perception of research for individuals with non-scientific backgrounds. However, participation in the art exhibit was less effective for participants with scientific backgrounds (10% improvement). Next, contrary to our hypothesis, participation in the art exhibit did not improve ecology student comprehension and retention of scientific material. In contrast, students scored the highest when reading abstracts. Collectively, this suggests that the use of art can facilitate scientific appreciation but is most influential with individuals with non-scientific backgrounds.
McLauchlin, B., & Hua, J. (2017). Impact of the Arts on Public Perception, Comprehension, and Retention of Scientific Research. Alpenglow: Binghamton University Undergraduate Journal of Research and Creative Activity, 3(1). Retrieved from https://orb.binghamton.edu/alpenglowjournal/vol3/iss1/12