Few issues have global ethical implications like climate change, yet parochial concerns routinely sabotage coordination of a global solution. New research indicates that cognitive biases and boomerang effects are partially to blame, and that in the United States they correspond to partisan divides.

As Matthew Nisbet reports for Big Think, "Previous studies ... indicate that the use of dire messages warning of climate catastrophe may unintentionally trigger disbelief, skepticism, and/or decreased concern among audiences." This effect appears more pronounced among audiences that are already primed for such disbelief and skepticism.

There is also a social distance effect at work: "Climate change campaigns in the United States that focus on the risks to people in foreign countries or even other regions of the U.S. are likely to inadvertently increase polarization among Americans rather than build consensus and support for policy action."

The authors of the study conclude that "science communicators and environmental organizations can lower the risk of creating a boomerang effect among conservative segments of the population by focusing on local effects and including implications for local areas when discussing the impact that climate change may be having on distant populations."

So in an ironic twist it seems that the best way to get people to act global is to make sure they think local.

[PHOTO CREDIT: Karl-Ludwig Poggemann (CC).]

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Tags: change, climate, communication, politics, psychology, science

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