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« Cross-cultural cultural cognition road trip: Australia | Main | Does "climate science literacy trump ideology" in Australia? Not as far as I can tell! Guy et al., Effects of knowledge & ideology part 1 »
Friday
Aug082014

What would a *valid* measure of climate-science literacy reveal? Guy et al., Effects of knowledge & ideology part 2

This is part 2 of my “journal club report”  on the very interesting paper Guy, S., Kashima, Y., Walker, I. & O'Neill, S. Investigating the effects of knowledge and ideology on climate change beliefs. European Journal of Social Psychology 44, 421-429 (2014).

GKW&O correllate a sample of 300 Australians’ “climate literacy” scores with their cultural worldviews & their “belief in” human-caused climate change and related perceptions.

Last time I explained why I didn’t understand how GKW&O could construe their data as suggesting that “knowledge can play a useful role in reducing the impact of ideologies on climate change opinion.”

In some sense, this statement is a tautology: insofar as “knowledge” is defined as accepting evidence that “human beings are causing climate change,” then, of course increasing the “knowledge” of individuals who are ideologically predisposed to be skeptical will “reduce” their skepticism, (that’s what GKW&O are getting at) and thus mute ideological polarization.

That claim is empty: it's like saying "getting skeptics to believe evidence in climate change would help to counteract skepticism."

The question is how to “increase knowledge” of those who are culturally predisposed to dismiss valid evidence of climate change. 

GKW&O imply that all one has to do is communicate the “facts” about climate change to them. 

But nothing in their data suggest that would be a particularly useful strategy. 

That’s what climate advocates have been focusing on for over a decade.  And notwithstanding that, people remain culturally polarized on what the facts are.

The best explanation for that—one supported by ample observational and experimental data—is that individuals selectively credit or discredit information on climate change based on its consistency with their cultural predispositions.

If this is what's going on, then one would expect to see a correlation between ideology (or cultural worldviews) & "knowledge" of the evidence of human-caused climate change.

That’s exactly that GKW&O’s own data in fact show.

Maybe I’m missing something and either they or others will point out what it is!

Okay-- that was last time!

But now  I'd like to  I’d like to address GKW&O's “climate literacy” scale.

I’m really interested in this aspect of their cool paper b/c how to measure what people’s comprehension of climate change science is a problem I myself have been trying to solve recently

Validly measuring what people actual understand about climate change is in fact a very difficult thing to do! 

There are two related reasons for this.  One is that, in general, people’s perceptions of societal risks reflect general affective orientations—pro- or con- -- toward the putative risk source.  Any more specific perception one assesses—how large the risk is, whether there are an offsetting benefits, etc.—will be an expression of that (Loewenstein et all. 2000).

Accordingly, if one tries to measure what people “know” about the putative risk  sourcein question, what one's really likely to be measuring  is just their pro- or con- affect toward it.  There's little reason to think their emotional response to the risk source reflects genuine comprehension of the evidence.  On the contrary, people’s understanding of what the “evidence” is on an environmental and health risk (nuclear power generation, smoking, contaminated ground water, etc.) is more likely to be a consequence of than a cause of their affective orientation toward it (Slovic et al. 2004).

The second problem—one that clearly comes into play with climate change—is that individuals’ affective orientation toward the putative risk source is itself likely to be a measure or expression of their cultural worldview, which invests the asserted risk with cultural meanings.

Affect—a spontaneous perception or feeling—is the cognitive mechanism through which worldviews shape risk perceptions (Peters, Burraston, & Mertz 2004; Kahan 2009).

Accordingly, when one asks people whether they “agree” or “disagree” with propositions relating to a putative risk source, the responses will tend to reflect their worldviews. Such items won’t be measuring what people know; it will be measuring, in effect, who they are, culturally speaking.

This is exactly what scholarly researchers who’ve investigated public “climate literacy” have repeatedly found (Tobler, Visschers, & Siegrist 2012; Reynolds et al. 2010; Bostrom et al. 1994; ).  Their studies have found that the individuals who tend to get the right answer to questions about the contribution of human activities to climate change (e.g., that burning fossil fuels increases global temperatures) are also highly likely to give the wrong answers to questions about the contribution of other environmentally damaging behavior that are in fact unrelated to climate change (e.g., industrial sulfur emissions).

The people who tend to get the latter questions right, moreover, are less likely to correctly identify which human activities do in fact contribute to global warming.

The conclusion of these studies is that what people “believe” about climate change doesn’t reflect what they “know” but rather reflects a more general affective orientation—pro or con- -- toward environmental risk, the sort of stance that is itself known to be associated with competing worldviews.

In my Measurement Problem paper, I present the results of a “climate science comprehension” test that includes various features designed to unconfound or disentangle affective indicators of people’s identities from their actual knowledge of climate science. The items were more fine-grained than “are humans causing climate change,” and thus less proximate to the antagonistic meanings that evoke identity-expressive responses to questions about this topic.

In addition, the “true-false” propositions comprising the battery were introduced with the phrase “Climate scientists believe . . . .” This device, which has been used to mitigate the cultural bias of test items on evolution when administered to highly religious test takers, distances the respondent from the response, so that someone who is culturally predisposed to skepticism can reveal his or her awareness of the prevailing expert opinion without being put in the position of making an “affirmation” of personal belief that denigrates his or her identity.

This strategy seemed to work pretty well.  I found that there wasn’t the sort of bimodal distribution that one gets when responses to test items reflect the opposing affective orientations of test-takers.

Even more important, scores on the instrument increased in step with respondents’ scores on a general science comprehension test regardless of their political ideology.

This is important, first, because it helps to validate the instrument—one would expect those who are better able to acquire scientific information generally would acquire more of it about climate change in particular.

Second and even more important, this result confirmed that the test was genuinely measuring what people know and not who they are.  Because items on “belief in” climate change do measure cultural identity rather than knowledge, responses to them tend to become more polarized as people become more proficient in one or another of the reasoning dispositions associated with science comprehension.  In the Measurement Problem “climate science literacy” battery, high science-comprehending test-takers scored highest precisely because they consistently gave correct answers to items that they would have gotten wrong if they were responding to them in a manner that expressed their cultural identities.

Constructing a test that disentangled "knowlege" from "identity," of course, confirmed that in fact what people "believe" about human-caused climate change has zero to do with what they know.

But my scale is an admittedly a proto- assessment instrument, a work-in-progress.

I was excited, then, to see the GKW&O results to compare them with my own.

GKW&O treat their “climate literacy” battery as if were a valid measure of knowledge (they call it a “specific [climate change] knowledge” measure, in fact).

Did they succeed, though, in overcome problem researchers have had with the entanglement between affect and identity, on the one hand, and knowledge, on the other?

Frankly, I can’t tell.  They don’t report enough summary data about the responses to the items in their battery, including their individual correlations with “belief in” climate change and with cultural worldviews.

But there is good reason to think they didn’t succeed.

GKW&O asked respondents to indicate which of nine human activities are & which are not “causes” of climate change: 

  • nuclear power generation
  • depletion of ozone in the upper atmosphere
  • pollution/emissions from business and industry
  • destruction of forests
  • people driving their cars
  • people heating and cooling their homes
  • use of chemicals to destroy insect pests
  • use of aerosol spray cans
  • use of coal and oil by utilities or electric companies

They reported that the “true” cause items (in green above) and the “false” cause ones (red) did not form a reliable, unitary scale:

Internal reliability was somewhat less than satisfactory (α = .60). To investigate this issue, items were divided to form two subscales according to whether they represented ‘causes’ or ‘non causes’ and then reanalyzed. This considerably improved the reliability of the scales (α = .89 for ‘knowledge of causes’ scale and α = .75 for the ‘knowledge of non causes’ scale). However, the distributions of the separated scales were highly skewed. Thus, it was decided to proceed with the 9-item knowledge scale, which had a more acceptable distribution.

In other words, the item covariances were more consistent with the inference that they were measuring two separate dispositions: one to correctly identify “true causes” and the other to correctly identify “false causes.”  

The items didn’t form a reliable measure of a single latent trait—one reflecting a disposition to give consistently correct responses on the “causes” of climate change—because respondents who did well on the “true cause” scale were not the ones who did well on the “false cause” ones & vice versa.

Who were these two groups of respondents?  It’s not possible to say because, again, GKW&O didn’t report enough summary data for a reader to figure this out.

But the pattern is certainly consistent with what one would expect to see if individuals culturally predisposed to climate belief did better on the “true cause” items and those culturally predisposed to climate skepticism better on the “false cause” ones.

In that case, one would conclude that the GKW&O “climate literacy” battery isn’t a valid measure of knowledge at all; it would be just a conglomeration of two oppositely valenced affective measures.

GKW&O report that the “score” on their conglomerate battery did correlate negatively with both cultural “hierarchy” and cultural “individualism.”

This could have happened, consistent with my surmise, because of the conglomerate scale had more “true cause” than “false cause” items, and thus more climate-concerned than climate-skeptical affect items.  The effect this imbalance would have created in the correlation between “number correct” and the cultural worldview scales would have been magnified if on, say, the “nuclear power” question, subjects of both types were more evenly divided (a result I’ve sometimes observed in my own work).

But I am admittedly conjecturing here in trying to discern exactly why GKW&O’s “specific knowledge” battery failed to display the characteristics one would demand of a valid measure of climate-science knowledge.  The paper didn’t report enough results to be sure.

I hope GKW&O will say more about this issue—maybe even in a guest blog here!—since these are really interesting issues and knowing more about their cool data would definitely help me and others who are struggling to try to overcome the obstacles I identified to constructing a valid climate-science comprehension measure.

I’m still working on this problem, btw!

So in closing, I’ll show you the results of some additional candidate “climate science literacy” items that I recently tested on a diverse sample of Southeast Floridians.

I used the same “identity-knowledge disentanglement” strategy with these as I did with items in the Measurement Problem battery.  I think it worked in that respect.

And I think the results support the following inferences:

1. Neither Rs nor Ds know very much about climate change.

2. Both have “gotten the memo” that climate scientists believe that humans are causing climate change and that we face serious risks as a result.

3. It’s crazy to think that that ideological variance in “belief in” human-caused climate change has anything to do with a knowledge disparity between Rs and Ds.

What do you think?

References

 Bostrom, A., Morgan, M.G., Fischhoff, B. & Read, D. What Do People Know About Global Climate Change? 1. Mental Models. Risk Analysis 14, 959-970 (1994). 

Kahan, D.M. Nanotechnology and society: The evolution of risk perceptions. Nature Nanotechnology 4, 705-706 (2009).
 

Loewenstein, G.F., Weber, E.U., Hsee, C.K. & Welch, N. Risk as Feelings. Psychological Bulletin 127, 267-287 (2001).

Peters, E.M., Burraston, B. & Mertz, C.K. An Emotion-Based Model of Risk Perception and Stigma Susceptibility: Cognitive Appraisals of Emotion, Affective Reactivity, Worldviews, and Risk Perceptions in the Generation of Technological Stigma. Risk Analysis 24, 1349-1367 (2004).

Reynolds, T.W., Bostrom, A., Read, D. & Morgan, M.G. Now What Do People Know About Global Climate Change? Survey Studies of Educated Laypeople. Risk Analysis 30, 1520-1538 (2010).

Slovic, P., Finucane, M.L., Peters, E. & MacGregor, D.G. Risk as Analysis and Risk as Feelings: Some Thoughts About Affect, Reason, Risk, and Rationality. Risk Analysis 24, 311-322 (2004).

Tobler, C., Visschers, V.H.M. & Siegrist, M. Addressing climate change: Determinants of consumers' willingness to act and to support policy measures. Journal of Environmental Psychology 32, 197-207 (2012).

 

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Reader Comments (14)

Regarding the questions you're asking on aerosols, the situation is a bit complicated, which might lead to some confusion on the part of subjects.

It's generally agreed that the net effect of aerosols is cooling, but there are different effects in different directions for different sorts of aerosol. Black carbon aerosols absorb sunlight, particularly on snow or in the air above clouds. The 'indirect glaciation' and 'thermodynamic' effects delay freezing which raises the altitude of clouds reducing heat radiated to space. There are other effects on clouds where it isn't even clear whether the result is cooling or warming.

As usual, if you know what you're talking about, you can sort of figure out what answer is expected. To the extent that there is a single answer, the net effect is the most likely to be what's intended. And the story on global dimming has probably been more visible in public presentations on the issue. On the other hand, sceptics have emphasised the complexity, and it may well be known that it goes both ways, or that the question is somewhat fuzzy. Black carbon on snow in particular has been widely discussed in sceptical circles as a possible alternative cause for warming at high latitudes.

Also, people may be a little unclear on the meaning of "restrictions" and "contributing". "Restrictions" probably means "reducing", but it could be interpreted as increasing too. People may know that one of the proposals for geoengineering involves the industrial-scale emission of sulphate particles into the stratosphere. And you can have a negative contribution.

And as for the common confusion between aerosol cans and what climate scientists mean by 'aerosols' is expected to go the other way (soot and smoke, basically). The more you've heard of climate science, the more likely you are to have heard aerosols being mentioned in that context without it being properly explained what they are, so the more you know about climate science the more likely you are to be confused.

Finally, it's worth mentioning that ozone is generally counted by scientists as a greenhouse gas - it absorbs UV strongly causing warming in the stratosphere, although it's true that that has little direct effect at the surface. On the other hand, the south polar ozone hole has been implicated by some in the Antarctic warming. It's related to the incidence of 'sudden stratospheric warming' and polar vortex collapse, which can affect weather in the lower atmosphere. Personally I think it's a bit speculative that it has anything to do with climate change, but there have been a few news reports people might have seen making the connection.

It probably doesn't have much effect, and most people answer as they do simply because they're confused. (If they were just ignorant, you'd expect a 50:50 split because they don't know. To consistently get the wrong answer means they've been told something they've then misunderstood.) But I think it would be a good thing generally to avoid such ambiguities.

August 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

The IPCC on black carbon.
http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch2s2-4-4-3.html

The IPCC on indirect effects of aerosols on clouds.
http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch7s7-5-2.html

Ozone as a greenhouse gas.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ozone#Ozone_as_a_greenhouse_gas
Not a good source, but I so liked the link!

Oh, go on then. The IPCC on ozone as a greenhouse gas.
http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch2s2-3-6-2.html
http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch2s2-3-6.html

Ozone causing Antarctic warming - press stories. (One picked at random from many.)
http://www.livescience.com/38765-ozone-hole-global-warming.html

Was there anything else...? :-)

(But I'm glad to see you didn't take my word for it!)

August 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

Hmm. Did your spam filter eat that last one?

August 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

@NiV:

I'll see your IPCC & raise you a NASA.

August 12, 2014 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

I agree with NASA. Note that they start with the word "some".

Although again, you can see how easy this sort of graphic would be to misunderstand.

It's true that some kinds of pollution can act to cool the planet, but it doesn't mention that there are other kinds of pollution that can warm it. Not wrong, just incomplete.

It's true that air pollution can take the form of fine particles that absorb and scatter sunlight. It doesn't mention that they can also emit their own radiation in the infrared. It doesn't mention that the primary mechanism by which many of them do so is by acting as the seeds for cloud droplets, rather than directly. It doesn't mention that direct absorption of sunlight can lead to a warming effect as well as a cooling one.

It's sort of true that both natural and man-made aerosols affect the climate by interacting with radiation traversing the atmosphere. "Reflecting" is the wrong word for it, technically, but it's close enough for intuition, in an everyday sense. The proper word is "scattering", and what is meant here is scattering incoming sunlight back into space. But it doesn't mention that they also scatter some of the light downwards, they scatter, absorb, and emit infrared rising upwards, and that some of this scattering/absorption/emission is mediated by cloud droplets formed around the particles rather than the particles themselves.

It's close enough to get the idea, but it's incomplete, dumbed down, potentially confusing, and presents no evidence or reasons to believe it. Just assertion - backed by authority. And it is very easy, as I think you could probably imagine, for people to get the wrong idea and assume that because they didn't mention the warming effects there aren't any. You can't see the logical gaps in the argument if you can't see the argument.

It's equally easy to imagine that people with other sources of information might have picked up a slightly different version, where the warming effects were mentioned without emphasising the cooling effects. Each side thinks the other is simply wrong - they disagree on the facts - but neither side has the background evidence/explanation to be able to decide who is right, or to realise that the presentations they have each seen are not actually contradictory.

And it's only when both sides talk to one another, and more importantly *listen* to one another, that each realises they have only seen a part of the picture. We each have our blind spots, and we must rely on other people with different blind spots to see into them and tell us what is there. We must rely on a *diversity* of viewpoints to see the whole picture - convergence to a consensus denies us that.

Aerosols have both cooling and warming effects, and their magnitude - and in some cases even their sign - are very poorly understood. (See what the IPCC say in those links I gave about the level of scientific understanding.) I would agree that if you had to pick one answer or the other, 'cooling' is probably the 'more correct'. But I can easily see how people could reasonably get it 'wrong', and the public consensus seems to be opposed to our view. Whatever the underlying variable is, the wrong answers are clearly the 'right' ones as far as measuring it is concerned.

And whether or not the general public have (or need) that deeper technical understanding, I think coming up with unambiguous questions does require a very deep understanding of the subject - and needs to be reviewed from all sides by people with non-overlapping blind spots.

This also, I think you'll agree, illustrates the problems with taking NASA's word for it, just because they're NASA. (Or the IPCC's, for that matter.) Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts. Or if not that, at least the belief that they might be dumbing things down a bit too much when they're talking to you. ;-)

August 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

==> "And the story on global dimming has probably been more visible in public presentations on the issue. "

Probably?

==> "It's equally easy to imagine that people with other sources of information might have picked up a slightly different version, where the warming effects were mentioned without emphasising the cooling effects. "

In the real world, I can't imagine that anyone who has done even a moderate amount of reading about the effect of aerosols on the climate wouldn't have heard about emphasis on the cooling effects. To do so, for example, you'd have to go to a website like WUWT, and then exclude most of the articles that mention aerosols.

I doubt they'd be able to rely on Fox News as a source (unless, again, they deliberately selected out most of the information there.

From the first link for a search at Fox News for articles that refer to climate change and aerosols.

http://www.foxnews.com/science/2014/07/10/volcanoes-cooled-earth-less-than-thought/

"Volcanic eruptions blast sulfur-dioxide gas into the stratosphere, where it turns into tiny particles called sulfate aerosols that reflect the sun's energy and cool the Earth. Snow falling in Antarctica records the levels of sulfate in the air at the time, and it eventually becomes ice drilled by researchers in long, tubular cores.."

2nd link:

"Brighten clouds with sea water? Spray aerosols high in the stratosphere? Paint roofs white and plant light-colored crops? How about positioning "sun shades" over the Earth?

At a time of deep concern over global warming, a group of scientists, philosophers and legal scholars examined whether human intervention could artificially cool the Earth -- and what would happen if it did.."

Could you suggest a plausible scenario where someone with even a moderate interest in climate change would get a information that could be fairly characterized in general as "where the warming effects were mentioned without emphasising the cooling effects. " I can't think of any.

Do you think that there are many people reading the IPCC or "Livescience" as a source of information about climate change who haven't seen information that emphasizes the cooling effects?


==> "and it may well be known that it goes both ways,"

"Well known?" If you had to speculate, what % of the public that has an opinion about the effect of aerosols do you think know that the effect goes both ways?

I'd say that the % is quite small, and not a number that fits with "well known."

I would be open to data that might show otherwise, of course, but your argument looks like wishful thinking to me, NiV.

August 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Human generated aerosol emissions are contributing to global warming. True or false?

Strictly speaking, true, interpreting the initial phrase as a plural rather than a category name. *Some* human generate aerosol emissions are contributing to global warming.

Consider the statement: "Humans live in Africa." True, because there are humans living in Africa? Or false, because not all of them do? The English is grammatically ambiguous. A plural noun can either refer to any number of instances greater than one, or all instances.

"In the real world, I can't imagine that anyone who has done even a moderate amount of reading about the effect of aerosols on the climate wouldn't have heard about emphasis on the cooling effects. To do so, for example, you'd have to go to a website like WUWT, and then exclude most of the articles that mention aerosols."

I think we're agreed that all the people who got this one wrong probably haven't done a moderate amount of reading about the effect of aerosols on climate.

Suppose the only article they remember reading is the following:
http://cires.colorado.edu/news/press/2013/blackcarbonsnow.html
What would you expect them to conclude?

"If you had to speculate, what % of the public that has an opinion about the effect of aerosols do you think know that the effect goes both ways?"

I have no idea. My point is, neither do you.

"I would be open to data that might show otherwise, of course, but your argument looks like wishful thinking to me, NiV."

It's a demonstration that there are alternative hypotheses to Dan's conclusion that have not yet been eliminated.

The point is, the public overwhelmingly considered the answer to that last question to be 'true'. If they were simply ignorant, they would surely have guessed 50:50. They might, as Dan has suggested, simply associate anything that sounds like environmental damage with global warming. Or they might actually know what they're talking about. (I certainly did, and a lot of WUWT readers would know it, too.) I agree that the former sounds a lot more likely than the latter, but the data doesn't say. You don't know. And so your metric is mixing up ignorance with knowledge.

Why do so many of the public think it's true, when as you say, anyone who has read much climate science knows the answer is more likely false? Where did they get that information from?

August 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

==> "Suppose the only article they remember reading is the following."

A theoretically plausible but highly unlikely (thus basically random) event. I don't understand why such an unlikely scenario is worth much consideration. Far more likely is they've read a very limited, somewhat limited, fairly substantial, or very substantial amount of information about aerosols where most of the emphasis is on the cooling effect.

==> "I have no idea. My point is, neither do you."

Based on observing public discussion on climate change, I think the % is low. Anecdotal, likely affected by my biases - but my guess is that if you speculated like I have, based on your own anecdotal experience, you'd also say that the % is low. Or maybe not.

==> "They might, as Dan has suggested, simply associate anything that sounds like environmental damage with global warming. "

That seems most likely to me - by a wide margin. Anything that sounds remotely anthropogenicish will net a "global warming" response w/r/t to what climate scientists believe.

==> "Why do so many of the public think it's true, when as you say, anyone who has read much climate science knows the answer is more likely false? Where did they get that information from?

Information? We don't need no stinkin' information. We've got identification. Some are "realists" who think that's what the experts would have to say. Some are "skeptics" who think that's what the communist climate scientists say, although of course it must be wrong because the actual intent isn't to understand the science but to install a one-world government and destroy capitalism.

August 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

"A theoretically plausible but highly unlikely (thus basically random) event."

Why do you think it is unlikely?

Given that everyone answered the question in the way this hypothesis would predict, what evidence is there against it?

August 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

@NiV:

Your point is just a replay of the "melting North pole ice cap" affair. It's just too boring to repeat the response (one already rehearsed in part II of the S&B series--which in fact was all about how to use evidence to figure out what a response to an item like this signifies. If you want to say something responsive to the answers given then, then do so -- & maybe then I'll have something more to say. Otherwise it feels like ground hog day

August 13, 2014 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

==> "Why do you think it is unlikely?"

Because I think that if someone only looks at one article about aerosols, they are far more likely to see one that emphasizes the cooling effect rather than one that doesn't. If they see a small number of articles they are more likely to see mostly articles that emphasize the cooling effect than to see mostly articles that don't. If they see a moderate amount of articles....etc., etc.

==>"Given that everyone answered the question in the way this hypothesis would predict, what evidence is there against it?"

Evidence? I don't need no stikin' evidence. That's Dan's department.

I don't see evidence against it. I also don't see evidence for it.

Mine is the speculation department. I described what I think is the more likely causal mechanism behind the wrong answers re: aerosols. It was entirely speculative - based on anecdotal experience (combined with my limited ability to understand the evidence that Dan offers)I. happen to think my speculation is more plausible than yours (shocker, I know).

August 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

An interesting article w/r/t whether or not views (of the American public) are largely driven by "information" as opposed to "identification."

http://www.post-gazette.com/news/politics-nation/2014/08/10/Survey-Climate-Change-Impact/stories/201408100110

Specifically, half of the respondents were asked: “Would you approve or disapprove of the federal government requiring power plants to reduce greenhouse gases, even if it would mean higher utility bills for consumers, or are you unsure?” The other half were asked: “Would you approve or disapprove of the Obama administration requiring power plants ...”

The results differed significantly with the use of the name Obama eliciting a margin of support of 42 percent to 28 percent, compared with 36 percent approval and 32 percent disapproval for the federal government. That may seem counterintuitive, given the president’s overall job approval ratings, but Mr. Moore explained that while the use of the Obama name reduced support among Republicans, it increased support, by a greater margin, among independents and Democrats.

Republicans disapproved of “federal government” regulation by a margin of 51-27; but opposed “Obama administration” regulation by a margin of 48-18. Independents disapproved of “federal government” regulation, 28-26, but that turned around with the mention of “Obama administration.” In that case, independents approved of the prospective regulation, 36-27. For Democrats, the mention of Obama had an even more positive effect, boosting approval from 50-16, to 64-13. In both cases, about a third of the sample said they were undecided.

Hmmm. If views were based on "information," then why would support differ on the basis of whether it would be the federal government or the Obama administration that would be requiring the power plants to reduce greenhouse gases? It could reflect differing levels of trust in how effectively those different entities would be enacting the "requirement" to some extent - but shouldn't whether or not a reduction in greenhouse gases should be required depend more on the potential impact of those gasses far more than whether the reduction would be required by the federal government as opposed to the Obama administration?

Also, interesting:

“Just 41 percent of Americans are confident that ‘most scientists agree that climate change is happening now caused mainly by human activities,’ while 18 percent firmly believe “there is little agreement among scientists’ on the issue and the rest are unsure.”


Dan - I wonder if the lack of confidence about a "consensus" among "most scientists" might reflect spillover from ideologically-influenced disagreement about the risks of climate change. A question regarding what "most" scientists agree on gets morphed, and the answers given reflect views about climate change itself (and not really about what scientists think) - which of course in turn is not based on information but on identification.

Questioner says: "Yes or no, do most scientists agree that climate change is happening now caused mainly by human activities?"

Respondent hears: "Do you think that climate change is happening now caused mainly by human activities?"

Based on choice of trusted experts, respondent chooses either yes or no as an answer.

August 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

"Hmmm. If views were based on "information," then why would support differ on the basis of whether it would be the federal government or the Obama administration that would be requiring the power plants to reduce greenhouse gases?"

Because 'Obama' is a magic word that turns any policy disaster into a feast of rainbows and fluffy kittens. It is against every law of physics for him to do any wrong. ;-)

One option is that people are assuming the federal government is incompetent but that the Obama administration is not. Then the information that Obama is running it is material.

"Respondent hears..."

Respondent hears "We're going to beat up Republicans for the next few months over every percentage point the American public support whatever option sounds most like 'global warming', you support beating up the Republicans too, don't you?"

August 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

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