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Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Psychological Climate Of Denial

I've often wondered how our perceptions shape our world.

In many ways, this is how I see the separation between conservatives and liberals, atheists and devout believers, even Cubs fans and Red Sox fans. We see what we want to see and, in more sharp contrasts than we may realize, this dictates how we perceive our surrounds.

In a recent interview with Kari Marie Norgaard, more Americans are finding themselves aligning with climate-change deniers as the scientific facts of climate-change are reinforced.

Even as the science of global warming gets stronger, fewer Americans believe it’s real. In some ways, it’s nearly as jarring a disconnect as enduring disbelief in evolution or carbon dating. And according to Kari Marie Norgaard, a Whitman College sociologist who’s studied public attitudes towards climate science, we’re in denial.

“Our response to disturbing information is very complex. We negotiate it. We don’t just take it in and respond in a rational way,” said Norgaard.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change declared in 2007 that greenhouse gases had reached levels not seen in 650,000 years, and were rising rapidly as a result of people burning fossil fuel. Because these gases trap the sun’s heat, they would — depending on human energy habits — heat Earth by an average of between 1.5 and 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit by century’s end. Even a midrange rise would likely disrupt the planet’s climate, producing droughts and floods, acidified oceans, altered ecosystems and coastal cities drowned by rising seas.

It's a very interesting, and ultimately predictable, form of the human condition. It separates us along not just political lines, but social lines as well. We too often surround ourselves with those that we agree with explicitly, unable or unwilling to be challenged or to challenge others in order to shape a point of view that is more rounded and more grounded in the actual reality of the world around us.

But let's take this a little further. Could these beliefs actually effect the functionality of our brains to the point where we literally see what we think? Studies show that show that the more favorable we see a person politically, the lighter their skin tone appears. Conversely, the more you distrust or dislike a person based on political ideology, the darker their skin tone appears. If we take this study into account with the psychology of climate-change denial, are people really seeing things that really aren't there?

Science has never been something that the conservative movement, but there is no escaping a psychological effect on us. The only variable is how easily susceptible to misdirection we are.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is not important what we believe because the water will rise and we will drown anyway. Cigarette companies still sell cigarettes although it kills and sickens millions every year. The oil and coal companies will spend whatever money it takes to keep us burning fossil fuel as the water rises.

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