When Is Science Considered Interesting and Important?

AbstractScientists seek to discover truths that are interesting and important. We characterized these notions by asking laypeople to assess the importance, interestingness, surprisingness, practical value, scientific impact, and comprehensibility of research reported in the journals Science and Psychological Science. These judgments were interrelated in both samples, with interest predicted by practical value, surprisingness, and comprehensibility, and importance predicted mainly by practical value. However, these judgments poorly tracked the academic impact of the research, measured by citation counts three and seven years later. These results suggest that although people have internally reliable notions of what makes science interesting and important, these notions do not track scientific findings’ actual impact.

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