Internet notebook about my work: deep listening to facilitate positive change


Tuesday 29 May 2012

Beliefs stronger than comprehension

Public apathy over climate change is often attributed to a deficit in comprehension. The public knows too little science, it is claimed, to understand the evidence or avoid being misled. A recent study showes that beliefs are stronger than comprehension of scientific knowledge. Members of the public with the highest degrees of science literacy and technical reasoning capacity were not the most concerned about climate change. Rather, they were the ones among whom cultural polarization was greatest. This result suggests that public divisions over climate change stem not from the public’s incomprehension of science but from a distinctive conflict of interest. At the one hand there is the personal interest individuals have in forming beliefs in line with those held by others with whom they share close ties. At the other hand there is the collective interest they all share in making use of the best available science to promote common welfare. The conflict between the personal (often short term) interest and the collective (often long term) interest, is in many cases won by the the former. That is the reason that more information does not work. Information is an intervention at the action level. For positive change we first and foremost will need interventions at the level of experience and beliefs.

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