The Society for the
Study of Social Issues

The Psychology of Climate Change Debate

18 March 2011

For many in the media establishment, the Republican twin House and Senate bills that aim to strip the EPA of its right to address climate change by controlling greenhouse gases, has led to questions of psychology. The New Scientist this week sourced the work of the Yale University Cultural Cognition Project on differences in values between Democrats and Republicans and the remarkable power of confirmation bias. The hearings on the EPA bill, it claims, only consolidated partisan convictions because opposition arguments are psychologically unbelievable precisely because they are presented by the opposition.

The work of SPSSI member, Geoff Cohen, at Stanford University, who is also a member of the Cultural Cognition Project, has often drawn attention to underlying psychological processes, and how understanding those processes are influenced so leading to behavioral change. For Dan Kahan at the Project this will be achieved by creating “an environment in which people, regardless of their values, are giving considered attention to the information." It might be more effective therefore to hand over the microphone to “specialists from the insurance industry, which is factoring climate change into its calculations, the military, or religious environmentalists”.


>SPSSI Briefing Sheet on Advocacy for Social Change

>New York Times Article on the GOP Greenhouse Gases Bill

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                                                                                                                    - Kurt Lewin