Whose Experience and Expertise Do You Trust and When?

I have limited expertise. (I have many opinions, but I have limited expertise.) That means I need to decide when to trust someone else’s expertise. My decisions depend on many criteria, including the domain—and the personal cost to me.

I have substantial expertise in product development, so I check the context, look for options, and then make my own decisions. (This is for my clients and for my own products and services.) I trust my experience and expertise more than I trust other people.

Mark and I have experience in managing our investments. Still, we sometimes ask financial advisors for their advice. We want to know what their experience and expertise say. We then make our own decisions. However, since it’s our money, we make the final decisions.

I’ve learned a lot about my vertigo in the past 12 years. So, I trust my experience and expertise more than a new-to-me doctor. (Too few docs really understand vertigo. Most of the neurologists I’ve seen have encouraged me to act as my own scientist :-). I still listen to the doctor, who has valuable expertise. I hope that doctor’s expertise is relevant and valuable to me.

Expertise isn’t enough. We also have our experiences.

Experience Colors Our Decisions

I also have these experiences re vaccines:

  • Having chickenpox and the mumps. I was pretty sick for over a week with each.
  • Seeing kids who had polio spend the rest of their lives in braces or partly paralyzed.
  • Seeing one colleague lose most of his hearing because he got the mumps as an adult.

I have had more positive than negative experiences with my medical care. And for vaccines, all positive.

Because I see the limits of my expertise and experience, I find the whole vaccine hesitancy thinking perplexing. I see it and acknowledge it, but I still find it perplexing.

I think that’s because we don’t always know whose expertise to trust and when.

Choosing (or Not) to Trust

When I think about trustworthiness, I think about these ideas for a person:

  • Expertise in this area
  • Personal integrity
  • Whether we have shared interests

If you read my other writing, you’ll notice these ideas are the foundation for influence.

When I think about people who are reluctant to take the vaccine, I wonder about their expertise. Do they realize they have limits on their expertise? How do they resolve those limits?

What about their experience? Have they seen a person with a bad side effect from the vaccine? (I was exhausted for a couple of weeks after my second shot and my arm hurt. Those are normal vaccine side effects, not bad side effects.)

I assume that people who hesitate to take the vaccine have personal integrity.

I’m not sure if we acknowledge that we have shared interests. And that’s a huge part of the problem. The more we believe in the individual, and not what we need to do as a society, the more we think we don’t have shared interests. Then, there are the costs.

Assessing the Personal and Societal Costs

My personal costs were quite low for the vaccine. I needed to drive about half an hour, get the shot, wait about ten minutes, and drive back home. A month later, I repeated that.

I can manage taking time off from work. And when I was tired, I could nap.

What about people who can’t take the time from work? What if they have side effects so they need time off to deal with those effects? Those could be pretty high personal costs.

We need to acknowledge that we ask people to shoulder their personal burdens, even while we benefit as a society.

All of this goes into the “when” to trust decision.

When to Trust

I trust the expertise and the experience of the people who made the vaccines. (If you have not yet read about the history of mRNA vaccines, start with Katalin Karikó.)

Yes, I trust the vaccines—and the expertise of the people who made them—and the people who ask us to take them.

I suspect that the people who hesitate are not sure when to trust the expertise of others.

However, we have a problem. The longer people hesitate, the more the virus will mutate. The more it mutates, the worse it will be for all of us. The more people who take the vaccine now, the more we increase the societal benefit to all of us. And worse, for the people who don’t take the vaccine, the mutations will cause worse disease and outcomes.

If you are not sure about the vaccine, please do ask this question of yourself: Whose experience and expertise do you trust and when?

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