Monday :: Jun 20, 2011

Denial is not an answer

by Mary

A piece in Common Dreams today asks whether cognitive dissonance is behind the climate change deniers inability to accede that climate change is happening and humans are largely responsible for causing it.

Why is the reality of climate change such a threat to the right? A new study published in the Spring 2011 issue of Sociological Quarterly delves into this very topic. The study finds that conservatives' refusal to acknowledge the very real threat of climate change, has more to do with its implications rather than skepticism of scientific facts. It's a classic case of cognitive dissonance!

Stanford University social psychologist Leon Festinger coined the theory of cognitive dissonance, based on a famous case study from the 1950s. Festinger and his colleagues infiltrated a cult that was awaiting what they believed would be the imminent end of the world on December 21, 1954. When the prediction failed, rather than recognize the error of their beliefs, the cult members' faith grew stronger, so strong that they began to proselytize. People will go to great lengths to rationalize their deeply held beliefs, even more so when exposed to evidence that challenges their worldview.

If you can accept reality, then there are some things we can do to address the problem before it causes catastrophe. As Jared Diamond notes, we can learn from the civilizations before us what to watch out for and what we can do to make sensible decisions that will enable us to survive the changes.

Mary :: 8:35 AM :: Comments (2) :: Digg It!