Date Thesis Awarded

5-2020

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelors of Science (BS)

Department

Environmental Science and Policy

Advisor

Daniel Maliniak

Committee Members

Jaime Settle

Adrian Bravo

Ronald Rapoport

Abstract

The cultural cognition thesis argues that individuals have two channels for processing information: culture and knowledge. The reason that American climate change belief remains polarized along political and cultural lines is that the issue has accrued cultural significance blocking some groups from accepting scientific consensus. Kahan says the solution is to ‘disentangle’ the two, so that individuals may asses climate change information without cultural interference. In their 2015 paper Geoengineering and Climate Change Polarization: Testing a Two-Channel Model of Science Communication, Kahan et al. showed that exposing conservative individuals to information on geoengineering increased their concern about climate change. This paper tests the effect reminding Republicans of cultural positions has on Kahan et al.’s disentanglement result. I inserted reminders of cultural positions into Kahan et al.’s geoengineering article as treatments and had respondents (a nationally representative sample of U.S. Republicans, n=1,180) assess the same piece of climate change information from their experiment. I examined the main treatment effect, as well as treatment effects on Republicans when sorted along two cultural worldview scales: hierarchical-egalitarian and individualist-communitarian. Overall, there was no main treatment effect. Dividing subjects along worldview told a different story. That is, subjects at different ends of the worldview spectrums responded differently to different cultural reminders. In terms of disentanglement, the effects Kahan et al. found were not undone across the board by cultural reminders, but his theoretical framework was not entirely consistent with the results. Overall, my findings suggest that it is misguided to treat Republicans as a monolith when formulating climate change communication strategies.

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