Climate Change, Viscerally

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Science  22 Apr 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6028, pp. 398
DOI: 10.1126/science.332.6028.398-c
CREDIT: RISEN AND CRITCHER, J. PERS. SOC. PSYCHOL. 100, 10.1037/A0022460 (2011)

Students were put outdoors and asked a series of questions about a number of topics, such as firearms, marijuana, and climate change. How they rated climate change—on a scale from unproven theory to proven fact—correlated with their political stance, with Republicans/conservatives tending toward the unproven end of the scale. Not very surprising, you might say. Yet their answers also correlated with the ambient temperature, with colder days favoring ratings at the unproven end. How did this occur? Risen and Critcher supply a sequence of experiments demonstrating that this effect is not due to participants using ambient temperature in an evidentiary sense: Repeating the study indoors and explicitly calling participants' attention to the over- or underheated interrogation room did not abolish the effect. Nor is this effect due to conceptual accessibility, meaning that implicitly priming the concept of heat failed to reproduce the correlation. What they did find is that participants who experienced warmth viscerally were more apt to form clear mental images of hot environments and that this simulational fluency was linked in turn to a greater belief in climate change as a fact.

J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 100, 10.1037/a0022460 (2011).

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