Fear-Based Messaging May Influence Skepticism of Global Warming
Earlier this year a Gallup poll found that 48 percent of Americans believe that global warming concerns are exaggerated. Back in 1997 31 percent of Americans thought the concerns were overrated. Why the increase?
Well it might have to do with the framing of the issue. Researchers surveyed students, measuring their skepticism about global warming and their belief in the justness of the world. Participants were asked how much they agree with the following statements: “I believe that…people get what they deserve,” and “I am confident that justice always prevails...”
Then half the participants read news articles that ended with dire warnings about the consequences of global warming; the other half read more positive pieces focused on possible solutions to the problem.
Those who received more positive messaging trusted the science. On the other hand those subjects who read the “doomsday” messaging were skeptical of global warming, and for those who think the world is generally a fair place had even stronger doubts about global warming after reading the negative messaging. The study is published in the January issue of Psychological Science.
So the authors note that while many tend to use fear-based messaging, in the case of global warming our reaction to a negative consequence may indeed overpower any logic.