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Climate Change Conceptual Change: Scientific Information Can Transform Attitudes

  • Author(s): Ranney, MA
  • Clark, D
  • et al.
Abstract

© 2016, Cognitive Science Society, Inc. Of this article's seven experiments, the first five demonstrate that virtually no Americans know the basic global warming mechanism. Fortunately, Experiments 2-5 found that 2-45 min of physical-chemical climate instruction durably increased such understandings. This mechanistic learning, or merely receiving seven highly germane statistical facts (Experiment 6), also increased climate-change acceptance-across the liberal-conservative spectrum. However, Experiment 7's misleading statistics decreased such acceptance (and dramatically, knowledge-confidence). These readily available attitudinal and conceptual changes through scientific information disconfirm what we term "stasis theory"-which some researchers and many laypeople varyingly maintain. Stasis theory subsumes the claim that informing people (particularly Americans) about climate science may be largely futile or even counterproductive-a view that appears historically naïve, suffers from range restrictions (e.g., near-zero mechanistic knowledge), and/or misinterprets some polarization and (noncausal) correlational data. Our studies evidenced no polarizations. Finally, we introduce HowGlobalWarmingWorks.org-a website designed to directly enhance public "climate-change cognition.

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