A newly published study shows that personal experience plays a significant role when it comes to the way people perceive the notion of climate change. Researchers found that people are more likely to believe in the existence of global warming if they experienced extreme temperatures, while skeptics usually live in areas where climate change effects were not as visible.
The study began when Robert Kaufmann, a professor at the College of Arts and Sciences, and Xiaojing Tang, Ph.D. candidate, decided to invent the TMax, a new local climate change measurement index measuring the relation between recently recorded high and low temperatures.
When Tang finished calculating the TMax for the United States region, he presented his work to Kaufmann who immediately realized that the map is depicting areas with high and low TMax indexes corresponded with the climate change denial/approval rate.
Kaufmann then showed his findings to Peter Howe, a society and environment assistant professor at Utah State University. Howe drew a similar map in 2013 after asking United States residents if they believe that global warming is real.
Since 2013, scientists abandoned the idea of global warming and instead focused on climate change because the current weather situations show that some areas of the world are getting warmer while others are getting colder.
The two scientists compared notes and found that approximately 50 percent of U.S. weather stations show that the overall temperatures have risen while 10 percent recorded a drop in temperature levels. It seems that coastal areas are experiencing a warmer climate and central regions, especially those located near the Mississippi and Ohio rivers are getting cooler.
The researchers found that the people living in counties where the weather tended to be cooler than usual were more likely to reject the idea of climate change than those living in coastal areas where the summer came with record high temperatures.
Jacqueline Liederman, one of the co-authors of the study and psychological and brain sciences professor, argues that the results only prove the fact that humans rely on personal experience when confronted with a new notion.
As humanity is programmed to learn from its own experiences, people are more reluctant to accept an idea that hasn’t affected them in a direct way. Moreover, Liederman argues that humans also rely on what experts call a confirmation bias, meaning that individuals find it hard to accept a new information that conflicts with rooted beliefs. In other words, if some people experienced mostly cold weather, they will think that a temperature spike is not important enough to be taken into consideration.
Personal experience plays a crucial role in the way in which humans perceive the notion of climate change.
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