Environmentalists Hire Psychologists to Convince Conservatives about Climate Change

 

New York magazine has figured out why conservatives don’t believe climate change is an imminent threat: we have a serious psychological problem.

As a result, environmental activists are working with shrinks to retool their message for the red states:

[S]ocial scientists have shown in laboratory settings that there are ways to discuss climate change that nudge conservatives toward recognizing the issue. Research is proceeding along a few different tracks. One of them involves moral foundations theory, a hot idea in political psychology that basically argues that people holding different political beliefs arrive at those beliefs because they have different moral values (even if there’s plenty of overlap). Liberals tend to be more moved by the idea of innocent people being harmed than conservatives, for example, while conservatives are more likely to react to notions of disgust (some of the conservative rhetoric over immigration reflects this difference).

I assume the “innocent people” in this study don’t include the unborn, though I agree that most conservatives are disgusted by abortion. The article provides zero examples of conservative disgust on the immigration debate. Most of the arguments I’ve seen focus on economics, security, and national sovereignty. But no worries — greenies have discovered other mental defects to exploit:

Another promising route that researchers are exploring involves the concept of “system justification.” Put simply, system justification arises from the deep-seated psychological need for humans to feel like the broad systems they are a part of are working correctly. It doesn’t feel good to know you attend a broken school or inhabit a deeply corrupt country — or that your planet’s entire ecology may be on the brink of collapse.

People tend to deal with major threats to their systems in one of two ways: taking a threat so seriously that they seek out ways to neutralize it, or “finding ways to justify away problems in order to maintain the sense of legitimacy and well-being of the system,” explained Irina Feygina, a social psychologist at New York University. This latter route is system justification.

Conservatives don’t have a monopoly on system justification, but there’s strong evidence they do it more than liberals. “There’s a lot of research that just goes out and asks people what their opinions and preferences are, and pretty consistently — I don’t actually know of any examples to the contrary — people who tend to report being further on the conservative end of the spectrum also report having greater confidence in the system and greater motivation to justify it,” said Feygina.

Researchers found positive responses to phrases such as “being pro-environmental allows us to protect and preserve the American way of life,” and “it is patriotic to conserve the country’s natural resources.” That’s nice as far as it goes, but doesn’t touch the heart of the left/right disconnect.

I know many, many people on the right, but don’t believe that I’ve met any who aren’t conservationists. We have always wanted to “conserve the country’s natural resources” and “protect and preserve the American way of life.” That these psychologists were unaware of this truth reveals they know little about conservative beliefs. Perhaps they’ve bought into the tired liberal caricature of greedy oil tycoons strip-mining national parks as rows of smokestacks belch soot hither and yon.

Unlike many leftists, we pick up after ourselves, try to save fuel, and enjoy the great outdoors. We vote for clean drinking water and don’t want smog-choked cities or garbage-filled lakes. That is a far cry from believing that man-made climate change has doomed our fragile planet to a nightmarish hellscape that will kill us all.

Partisan psychologists have a lot of work to do if they want to move conservatives from “it’s nice to save energy” to “we need a one-world government with 90 percent tax rates or the planet will melt.”

P.S. Today marks 18 years without global warming.

There are 43 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    This is all so unnecessary. If they want to change the minds of conservatives all they have to do is provide evidence to support their claims. They could start with just one stinkin’ taxpayer-funded computer model (all the stinkin’ computer models are already taxpayer funded, I’m pretty sure) that predicted an 18-year lull in the warming trend.

    Instead, taxpayers will get to fund stinkin’ social “scientists” to attempt to warp conservatives’ minds like their own. ‘Cause we all know how accurate and useful social sciences are.

    Typical liberal non-solution to a non-problem causing actual problems which will be solved by?… More liberal cow bell. Somebody let me off this ride. I’m gonna puke.

    • #1
  2. MJBubba Inactive
    MJBubba
    @MJBubba

    Calling Psychlynne !

    The lefties are implementing the moral psychology findings of Jonathan Heidt.

    Since all the professors of psychology are leftists, we are in grave danger.   They will be writing this into Obamacare and we will find them taking our children away from us because of our mental defects.

    • #2
  3. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Psychology in General has a anti religion bias built in. Thus it is fertile ground to be anti-conservative.

    • #3
  4. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    This is very simple.  The big left/right divide is:  We THINK, therefore we know that “man-made climate change” is a bunch of hooey.  They FEEL, therefore they are afraid of being swamped by rising sea levels and seared by desert heat, and it’s our fault.

    • #4
  5. user_82762 Inactive
    user_82762
    @JamesGawron

    Jon,

    The problem is that psychologism itself has not been properly critiqued.  Freud compared Hitler and the Nazis to school yard bullies, the JV team of the 1930s.  His last book, just before Kristallnacht, panned Orthodox Jewish belief, virtually justifying the Nazis.  Jung meanwhile was running Hitler’s state psychological organization.  He claimed he did it to preserve a “young science”.  Apparently the 50 million dead of WWII weren’t so important.

    To be very blunt, if you are intellectually objective Freud is an agnostic fascist and Jung is an agnostic bolshevik.  Their nihilist formalist point of view is far more sophisticated than the crude materialist atheist versions, however, the end result can be much the same.

    You see I have dared to critique the most sacred of all left wing sacred cows.  Too bad they consider trampling religious faith under their boots to be just another day in the neighborhood.  They can dish it out but I don’t think they can take it.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #5
  6. The Mugwump Inactive
    The Mugwump
    @TheMugwump

    We hav’ed place for you comrade Gawron.  Eez like summer camp, only colder.  Eez place where we teach people like you to concentrate on soviet truth.  Eez why we call it concentration camp!  Ha, ha.  What, you not like this truth?  Don’t worry, comrade, you vill have plenty of time to get used to it.

    • #6
  7. MJBubba Inactive
    MJBubba
    @MJBubba

    Their appeals to emotion will fail, because even though they have Jonathan Heidt et al to show them the places to direct their appeal, they are clueless about how we think.

    They will use these appeals to broaden their reach with the low-info crowd.   They will use the failure of their appeal with conservatives as evidence of how mentally defective we are.

    • #7
  8. Fake John Galt Coolidge
    Fake John Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    Coming soon, mandatory reeducation programs.

    • #8
  9. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    I happen to think anthropogenic global warming is real, and I take it more seriously than Obama and the Democrats do.  Which means I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about it.

    It’s interesting, though, that the people who are able to make themselves stupid enough to claim that there was no wrongdoing at the IRS, or that “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan,” are willing to correct other people’s opinions.

    • #9
  10. user_82762 Inactive
    user_82762
    @JamesGawron

    The Reticulator:I happen to think anthropogenic global warming is real, and I take it more seriously than Obama and the Democrats do. Which means I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about it.

    It’s interesting, though, that the people who are able to make themselves stupid enough to claim that there was no wrongdoing at the IRS, or that “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan,” are willing to correct other people’s opinions.

    There is no joy in left wing mudville mighty psychobabble has struck out.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #10
  11. Roberto Member
    Roberto
    @Roberto

    The Reticulator:I happen to think anthropogenic global warming is real, and I take it more seriously than Obama and the Democrats do.

    An intriguing statement, in what sense?

    • #11
  12. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: Partisan psychologists have a lot of work to do if they want to move conservatives from “it’s nice to save energy” to “we need a one-world government with 90 percent tax rates or the planet will melt.”

     “It is not propaganda’s task to be intelligent, its task is to lead to success.” – Dr. Joseph Goebbels, PhD.

    • #12
  13. AIG Inactive
    AIG
    @AIG

    You guys are going a bit too far here. First off, these studies are not “normative” in nature. They are simply lab experiments to show how people’s attitudes change depending on how the situation is framed. I.e., these are positive studies.

    This same phenomenon could be observed in any setting, and in any topic.

    So no reason to go an the attack against “psychology”, especially not if you’re going to do it by referring to Freud. That’s just irrelevant.

    If you’re going to criticize something, criticize the New York Magazine garbage.

    Or, at the very least, try reading the actual journal article that is cited there.

    • #13
  14. Sabrdance Member
    Sabrdance
    @Sabrdance

    I recall an article I read a number of years ago that set out to determine if Evangelical Christians were less likely to be uninterested in environmental matters because they believed the end times were coming soon, so what was the point in protecting the environment.

    I recall noting that even if they got statistically significant results (I don’t recall if they did) the results were worthless because the underlying theory was wrong.  The researchers didn’t know enough about the group they were studying to know that they were actually looking for Dispensationalists, not Evangelicals (the overlap is not 100%, there being Dispensationalist mainlines and non-dispensationalist Evangelicals).  And even then, Dispensationalism doesn’t indicate when the end times are…

    Basically, the theology was bad, so I had a hard time taking the article seriously.  This is a standing problem in the social sciences.

    • #14
  15. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    “An intriguing statement, in what sense?”

    If Obama/Democrats took global warming seriously, they’d immediately ban the use of all air conditioning in federal buildings.  They’d realize that we conservatives are stupid and intransigent, but this is so important that they’d say, “Let’s have a net-zero carbon tax, and maybe cut government a bit while we’re at it just to get you on board.”  But it’s not really THAT important to them.

    And if it’s not that important to them, I’m not going to get too worked up over it, either.

    I should also add that I do support the idea of a net-zero carbon tax.  But not cap-and-trade, which is a recipe for corruption.

    • #15
  16. user_11047 Inactive
    user_11047
    @barbaralydick

    Actually there’s nothing to worry about.  There should be no concern about reeducation camps.  Our current education system, complete with the implementation of Common Core by educators who “truly care about  the earth” and will therefore entwine their ideology into every subject, will have our kids whipped into shape in no time.  So it won’t really matter what we think.

    • #16
  17. 3rd angle projection Member
    3rd angle projection
    @

    Western Chauvinist:This is all so unnecessary. If they want to change the minds of conservatives all they have to do is provide evidence to support their claims. They could start with just one stinkin’ taxpayer-funded computer model (all the stinkin’ computer models are already taxpayer funded, I’m pretty sure) that predicted an 18-year lull in the warming trend.

    Instead, taxpayers will get to fund stinkin’ social “scientists” to attempt to warp conservatives’ minds like their own. ‘Cause we all know how accurate and useful social sciences are.

    Typical liberal non-solution to a non-problem causing actual problems which will be solved by?… More liberal cow bell. Somebody let me off this ride. I’m gonna puke.

    Too late. I puked.

    • #17
  18. user_199279 Coolidge
    user_199279
    @ChrisCampion

    “a hot idea in political psychology”.

    Well, there’s nothing hotter than hot ideas in political psychology.  Yes, we’re churning out political psychologists from our nation’s finest academies.

    There’s a reason why I don’t read the psychology trade journals.  This is one of them.  So I might have to be excused from any self-loathing regarding my immediate dismissal of massive, catastrophic stupidity, and useless conclusions pulled out of the rear end of drivel.

    • #18
  19. dittoheadadt Inactive
    dittoheadadt
    @dittoheadadt

    Well how about this piece of garbage?

    It doesn’t feel good to know you attend a broken school or inhabit a deeply corrupt country — or that your planet’s entire ecology may be on the brink of collapse.”

    You can know that your kids attend a broken school.  You can even know that your country is deeply corrupt.  But you cannot POSSIBLY know that Earth’s entire ecology may be on the brink of collapse. No one can.  Yet to whoever wrote that claptrap, they’re all knowable.  Pardon me, but your Sliberal is showing.

    • #19
  20. Proud Skeptic Inactive
    Proud Skeptic
    @ProudSkeptic

    I read the New York magazine article and all I can say is that I don’t think they have this figured out, yet.

    One would think that in writing an article about how psychologists are learning to connect with Conservatives, the author could do it in such a way as to avoid offending the group they say they are trying to reach.

    The first mistake they made was to characterize the Conservative reaction to things as “disgust”.  Pretty offensive stuff.  As far as I was concerned they were dead right there.

    The other mistake they make is that they ignore completely the fact that the science of climate change currently points very strongly to the idea that methodologies that have been employed so far have been unable to predict the Earth’s temperature change to any reliable degree.  The article goes merrily forward assuming that the science is settled…a Liberal pathology…and talks about how they can convince a bunch of logical (though disgusted, I assume) Conservatives that climate change is something (1) caused by man and (2) that we can do anything meaningful about it and (3) actions to control it won’t destroy our economy.

    What a mess!

    • #20
  21. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    Good post and good comments from everyone.

    • #21
  22. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    MJBubba:Calling Psychlynne !

    The lefties are implementing the moral psychology findings of Jonathan Heidt.

    Since all the professors of psychology are leftists, we are in grave danger. They will be writing this into Obamacare and we will find them taking our children away from us because of our mental defects.

    Jonathan Haidt is a pretty smart guy, and he backs up his studies with pretty strong research.  Although Haidt is careful to keep is own political opinions out of his work, I doubt he is a leftist because, well, he keeps his own political opinions out of his work.  Leftists don’t do that.  Their opinions are “facts.”

    • #22
  23. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    A bit more on Haidt. He asked a group of self-identified liberals and self-identified conservatives to answer a series of questions and then he asked the same people to predict how other liberals and conservatives would answer the questions. The results were:

    Liberals predicted how other liberals would answer the questions with a high degree of accuracy.

    Conservatives predicted how other conservatives would answer the questions with a high degree of accuracy.

    Conservatives predicted how liberals would answer the questions with a high degree of accuracy.

    Liberals who tried to predict how conservatives would answer the questions were wildly wrong.

    Haidt thinks this result is consistent with his hypothesis that conservatives think in all six dimensions of moral thought, and therefore have no problem understanding the moral reasoning of liberals. However, those liberals who think in only three of the six dimensions of moral thought have great difficulty understanding how conservatives think. Haidt likens this to color-blindness. A person who sees colors can easily imagine the world in black and white. However, a person who is color-blind has difficulty imagining how the world would look in color.

    • #23
  24. Nathaniel Wright Member
    Nathaniel Wright
    @NathanielWright

    Larry,

    From my reading of Haidt’s book The Righteous Mind, I think he articulates his politics quite well. I won’t give any spoilers because I think people should read his books as well as his many articles on moral foundations. It’s very good stuff. The only “big” flaw I found with Haidt’s book was his analysis of Plato’s Republic. He seemed to have an understanding that someone who only read Book II, and who certainly never read The Laws. Haidt underestimates how much Socrates would have agreed that people react to the use of shame in dictating our moral behavior.

    Other than that though, this book – like Thinking, Fast and Slow, is a very good overview of the areas of psychology it covers.

    • #24
  25. PsychLynne Inactive
    PsychLynne
    @PsychLynne

    Larry3435:

    MJBubba:Calling Psychlynne !

    The lefties are implementing the moral psychology findings of Jonathan Heidt.

    Jonathan Haidt is a pretty smart guy, and he backs up his studies with pretty strong research. Although Haidt is careful to keep is own political opinions out of his work, I doubt he is a leftist because, well, he keeps his own political opinions out of his work.

    Hi all,

    Teach me to go exercise when there are important thread to read!  Anyway, I LOVE Jonathan Haidt’s work and if you read his book or hear him present, he is incredibly respectful of people who don’t agree with him and acknowledges that his work made him confront some of his own biaes and moved him from the left (politically) to a more moderate view.

    I haven’t read the article yet, but here are some general thoughts of mine about this type of work.

    1.  A lot of lab findings (hard and soft sciences) don’t hold up when you try to apply them to more complex situations in real life.  It’s the tension of internal validity (controlling all the variables so you know what caused the change) and external validity (making a situation very life-like…where you can’t control all the variables).

    2.  Psychology about environmental attitudes suffers from the same bias (in my opinion that psychology examining healthy behaviors and medical decision making does – If you knew what I know, you would choose as I choose.

    3.  Based on #2 you can see what education and nudges are seen as the way to “fix” the problem.  Unfortunately, all good science shares curiosity – an curiosity requires the investigator to not pre-suppose the problem and the answer before hand.

    4.  Sadly, if scientists approach it this way, there will be spurt of studies, that don’t help illuminate the problem because the questions and variables are poorly designed.

    5.  There were several seminars at my annual professional meeting this summer on using psychology to shape attitudes about the environment and same sex marriage.

    6.  my word limit in the comment box says I have a 5K limit–so hopefully I havent’ been too verbose.

    • #25
  26. user_340549 Inactive
    user_340549
    @StephenKruiser

    Wait, New York magazine is approaching conservatives as if we’re a foreign race who need to be communicated with in a special way? Gosh, it’s almost as if they have never exposed themselves to those who aren’t like-minded.

    “We’ve studied them in the lab and found that they respond to specific stimuli. When they aren’t breeding willy-nilly, of course.”

    This is a more fully-realized version of Obama’s, “I just didn’t explain myself well and all will be well if I just use more words” approach to, well, everything.

    This does, however, showcase the leftist obsession with messaging, something for which they have vastly superior skills, even if this isn’t the greatest example.

    • #26
  27. user_129539 Member
    user_129539
    @BrianClendinen

    Hint to liberals,  stop making the movement about how conservatives  have to change our behavior to act more like good environmentalist, stop increasing government regulations,  and insure Americans  don’t pay more for goods because of environmental policies.    Them BAM many conservatives will nominally agree your urban myth called global cooling, global warming, climate change. It is incredible how the  media can get Americans to agree in things that require no action or cost to say you agree with.

    • #27
  28. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Brian Clendinen: Hint to liberals, , stop making the movement about how conservatives have to change our behavior to act more look good liberals, stop increasing government regulations, and insure Americans don’t pay more for goods because of environmental policies.

    Why should they change their tactics when they are winning?

    • #28
  29. Johnny Dubya Inactive
    Johnny Dubya
    @JohnnyDubya

    “[Y]our planet’s entire ecology may be on the brink of collapse.”

    The earth’s temperature is always fluctuating.  It has been higher than it is today and it has been lower.  Somehow, the planet’s ecology has found ways to survive these changes.  That leftists believe it to be “on the brink of collapse” demonstrates that they are hysterical and anti-science.

    • #29
  30. Johnny Dubya Inactive
    Johnny Dubya
    @JohnnyDubya

    Would you rather (a) spend trillions trying to prevent something that may not be preventable or even imminent, while at the same time restraining economic development and keeping millions in poverty who might otherwise escape it; or (b) spend billions adapting to any changes that actually do present themselves, and nothing on those that don’t?

    If you answered (a) you might be a liberal leftist watermelon.

    • #30

Comments are closed because this post is more than six months old. Please write a new post if you would like to continue this conversation.