Monday, November 21, 2011

Psychology of Climate Change: Political Debates and Cognitive Dissonance

     Scientists are often perplexed by the political nature of the climate change debate. After all, whether or not people accept the evidence supporting the existence of climate change has nothing to do with politics—it has to do with whether or not people accept scientific evidence.
     However, the truly political question—what should we do about climate change?—may be too contentious a topic when we consider the psychological need for consistency between our social and political identities, our morality, and our behaviors. The desire to avoid inconsistency may be driving our desire to avoid that second question—what should we do about climate change? Instead, people focus on whether or not climate change is real, hoping to avoid the ‘what to do about it’ debate entirely.
     I teach a course at the University of Hawai`i, Mānoa called “Cultural Community Psychology and Global Climate Change.” This course explores how human diversity affects the ways in which we respond to and are impacted by climate change. In the short video mini-lecture below, I discuss how the psychological concept cognitive dissonance may be increasing the politicization of the climate change debate.

Kati Corlew, M.A.
University of Hawai`i, Mānoa

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