Communication of science through online media has become a primary means of disseminating and connecting science with a public audience. However, online media can come in many forms and stories of scientific discovery can be told by many individuals. We tested whether the relationship of a spokesperson to the science story being told (i.e., the narrative perspective) influences how people react and respond to online science media. We created five video stimuli that fell into three treatments: a scientist presenting their own research (male or female), a third-party summarizing research (male or female), and an infographic-like video with no on-screen presenter. Each of these videos presented the same fabricated science story about the discovery of a new ant species (Formicidae). We used Qualtrics to administer and obtain survey responses from 515 participants (~100 per video). Participants were randomly assigned to one of the videos and after viewing the stimulus answered questions assessing their perceptions of the video (trustworthiness and enjoyment), the spokesperson (trustworthiness and competence), scientists in general (competence and warmth), and attitudes towards the research topic and funding. Participants were also asked to recall what they had seen and heard. We determined that when participants watched a video in which a scientist presented their own research, participants perceived the spokesperson as having more expertise than a third-party presenter, and as more trustworthy and having more expertise than the no-spokesperson stimuli. Viewing a scientist presenting their own work also humanized the research, with participants more often including a person in their answer to the recall question. Overall, manipulating the narrative perspective of the source of a single online video communication effort is effective at impacting immediate objective outcomes related to spokesperson perceptions, but whether those objectives can positively influence long-term goals requires more investigation.
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