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ERIC Number: ED567578
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 171
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: 978-1-3038-3201-7
Climate Change and Conceptual Change
Clark, David J.
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, University of California, Berkeley
Global Warming ("GW") is easily one of the most pressing concerns of our time, and its solution will come about only through a change in human behavior. Compared to the residents of most other nations worldwide, Americans report lower acceptance of the realities of GW. In order to address this concern in a free society, U.S. residents must be convinced or coerced to take the necessary actions. In spite of the democratic appeal of education, however, many climate communicators appear to be settling on the notion that emotional persuasion is superior to education. We'll set an empirical foundation in Chapter 2, reviewing an experiment in the Numerically Driven Inferencing (NDI) paradigm that sheds some light on the cognitive processes involved in learning and attitude shifts in response to surprising policy-relevant information. Chapters 3-6 contain results from a comprehensive program of research specifically targeting climate-related attitudes and beliefs in the United States. As alluded to above, there have been many surveys of American attitudes. Chapter 3 provides an overview of our approach to assessing climate-related beliefs and attitudes. In particular, we note relationships observed in one survey between scientific literacy regarding the GW mechanism on one hand and attitudes, including "willingness to sacrifice" on the other. As with some other empirical approaches, our results suggest that U.S. residents generally accept anthropogenic (i.e., "human caused") climate change, and support action on this issue. But even if this is the case, Chapter 4 describes an experiment demonstrating that these beliefs and attitudes are disturbingly fragile in the face of cherry-picked, misleading numerical facts. Chapter 5 then describes a pair of experiments evaluating the effects of representative numerical facts. Chapter 5's Study 1 (Section 5.1) demonstrates that even when students report strong psychological effects after receiving a set of surprising numbers, their beliefs and attitudes will not necessarily be affected. Chapter 5's Study 2 (Section 5.2) improves upon the clarity of materials used in Study 1 and demonstrates that such materials can effectively increase climate change acceptance and concern. In both of these studies, as with the study presented in Chapter 4, this relatively uncontextualized, surprising numerical information undermines students' confidence in their own knowledge. Chapter 6 reports on three successful experiments (spanning four samples) that provide a coherent explanation of the mechanism of climate change that includes relevant numerical facts. As with Study 2 in Chapter 5, this intervention shifts participant attitudes towards the scientific consensus. Unlike uncontextualized numerical information, however, this mechanism intervention additionally leaves participants feeling that they know more than they did prior to instruction. Chapter 6's Study 1 (Section 6.1) establishes this effect in classroom-based settings at two culturally distinct universities. Chapter 6's Study 2 (Section 6.2) provides an initial evaluation of the time-course of retention for the cognitive shifts that followed our mechanism intervention, and Chapter 6's Study 3 (Section 6.3) provides a successful demonstration of durable shifts with the general population online. Taken together, these experiments point the way towards effective curricula and on-line materials that can help bolster support to combat climate change. While we must certainly be sensitive to the needs, values, and interests of our target audiences, we should not reflexively steer away from science education. Indeed, the experiments in this dissertation provide empirical support for the notion that science education materials can have a meaningful and lasting impact on GW attitudes and beliefs. While this may not provide the complete behavioral solution we need for the United States (and the world), it seems likely that such shifts will make behavioral and policy changes far more tractable in the coming years. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A