Source Newsroom: Cornell University
Jonathon Schuldt, an assistant professor of communication at Cornell University whose research focuses on how people make decisions based on information they receive about the environment, comments on recent polls that show public belief in global climate change is increasing.
“A number of scientific studies now suggest that – whether always rational or not – people's belief in climate change is affected by their direct experience with the weather and temperature. For example, researchers have shown that survey respondents who are polled on warm days express slightly greater belief in climate change than those polled on colder days, and that even being in a warm room can increase one's belief. At the same time, scientists have cautioned against confusing weather with climate.
“But nevertheless, it seems that events like the severe drought of 2012 and Superstorm Sandy prime us to think about climate change, and once it's on our mind, even skeptics may report slightly greater belief and concern than they otherwise would.
“Both the persistent partisanship over climate change, and the malleability of our attitudes in response to weather, reveal interesting things about the human mind. Climate change is a complex phenomenon, and it is very difficult for an individual to singlehandedly gather and analyze all of the necessary data to have a fully informed judgment. And so, as is the case with so many judgments, humans rely on mental shortcuts, or heuristics. One such shortcut is to rely on what others in your group believe; not only does this save mental resources but it satisfies a deep social need. Another shortcut is to look around the immediate environment for seemingly relevant cues, and if it's a little warmer, or if a recent storm is receiving media attention, people may report slightly greater belief than they otherwise would have.”
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