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Tue Jan 22, 2013, 02:45 PM

Public Acceptance of Climate Change Affected by Word Usage, Says MU Anthropologist

[font face=Serif][font size=5]Public Acceptance of Climate Change Affected by Word Usage, Says MU Anthropologist[/font]
[font size=4]Better science communication could lead to a more informed American public.[/font]

Jan. 22, 2013

Story Contact(s):
Timothy Wall, walltj@missouri.edu, 573-882-3346

[font size=3]Public acceptance of climate change’s reality may have been influenced by the rate at which words moved from scientific journals into the mainstream, according to anthropologist Michael O’Brien, dean of the College of Arts and Science at the University of Missouri. A recent study of word usage in popular literature by O’Brien and his colleagues documented how the usage of certain words related to climate change has risen and fallen over the past two centuries. Understanding how word usage affects public acceptance of science could lead to better science communication and a more informed public.

“Scientists can learn from this study that the general public shouldn’t be expected to understand technical terms or be convinced by journal papers written in technical jargon,” O’Brien said. “Journalists must explain scientific terms in ways people can understand and thereby ease the movement of those terms into general speech. That can be a slow process. Several words related to climate change diffused into the popular vocabulary over a 30-50 year timeline.”

To observe the movement of words into popular literature, O’Brien and his colleagues searched the database of 7 million books created by Google. They used the “Ngram” feature of the database to track the number of appearances of climate change keywords in literature since 1800. The usage rate of those climate change terms was compared to the usage of “the,” which is the most common word in the English language. Statistical analysis of usage rates was calculated in part by co-author William Brock, a new member of MU’s Department of Economics and member of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study, “Word Diffusion and Climate Science” was published in the journal PLOS ONE and can be viewed here: http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0047966 . Co-authors also included and Phillip Garnett of Durham University.


Or maybe vocabulary has nothing to do with it: http://www.freakonomics.com/2012/10/11/the-truth-is-out-there-isnt-it/
[font face=Serif][font size=3]…

PETERS: We have. It’s the idea that people who are highly numerate and highly scientifically literate, they seem to actually rely on preexisting beliefs, on these sort of underlying cultural cognitions they have about how the world should be structured more than people who are less scientifically literate, or less numerate.

DUBNER: So, if I wanted to be wildly reductive, I might say the more education a culture gets, the more likely we are to have intense polarization at least among the educated classes, is that right?

PETERS: Based on our data, that’s what it looks like. It’s so interesting and so disturbing at the same time.

DUBNER: It is interesting, isn’t it? I mean, Peters and Kahan found that high scientific literacy and numeracy were not correlated with a greater fear of climate change. Instead, the more you knew, the more likely you were to hold an extreme view in one direction or the other, that is, to be either very, very worried about the risks of climate change or to be almost not worried at all. In this case, more knowledge led to more extremism! Why on earth would that be? Dan Kahan has a theory. He thinks that our individual beliefs on hot-button issues like this have less to do with what we know than with who we know.


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Reply Public Acceptance of Climate Change Affected by Word Usage, Says MU Anthropologist (Original post)
OKIsItJustMe Jan 2013 OP
pscot Jan 2013 #1
OKIsItJustMe Jan 2013 #2
tama Jan 2013 #3

Response to OKIsItJustMe (Original post)

Tue Jan 22, 2013, 04:41 PM

1. That last is really counter intuitive

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Response to pscot (Reply #1)

Tue Jan 22, 2013, 05:05 PM

2. Confirmation bias

I start out with an opinion and am motivated enough to look for information.

I tend to be most interested in information which supports my opinion. So, the more information I gather, the stronger my opinion becomes (and I have all of this “evidence” to support it!)

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Response to pscot (Reply #1)

Wed Jan 23, 2013, 08:29 AM

3. Confirmation bias


and essentialist metaphysics - that truth is "out there", that there is some objective reality that causes our consensual etc. phenomenological webs of relations. Belief that world is rather nominal phrase than verb phrase, is prerequisite for confirmation bias that the presupposed essential objective reality corresponds with my opinion and point of view rather than with some other point of view that seems contradictory from my point of view.

There are many potential rational cures for belief in essentialist metaphysics, philosophical skepticism, Buddhist middle-way philosophy, etc.

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