Yesterday, we noted that people are once again inclined to accept climate change, given how hot it has been. Here’s one thing they may not be willing to accept, however: how hot it has been.
Turns out that perception of the temperature is correlated to political belief. To repeat: political philosophy influences whether or not you think a heat wave exists. From Ars Technica:
Both droughts and floods passed the simple test. These showed a clear trend in response to precipitation changes, and the trend was in the right direction—people perceived more floods and fewer droughts when there was more rain. And, in the statistical analysis, ideology and political affiliation had a weak effect on the accuracy of recollections, having about as much influence as education.
Things were completely different for temperatures. In fact, the actual trends in temperatures had nothing to do with how people perceived them. If you graphed the predictive power of people’s perceptions against the actual temperatures, the resulting line was flat—it showed no trend at all. In the statistical model, the actual weather had little impact on people’s perception of recent temperatures. Education continued to have a positive impact on whether they got it right, but its magnitude was dwarfed by the influences of political affiliation and cultural beliefs.
And those cultural affiliations had about the effect you’d expect. Individualists, who often object to environmental regulations as an infringement on their freedoms, tended to think the temperatures hadn’t gone up in their area, regardless of whether they had. Strong egalitarians, in contrast, tended to believe the temperatures had gone up.
Further research indicates that individualists are also prone to stamping their feet and pouting their lips until they get a lollipop.
Since temperatures have become the primary thing the public associates with climate change, people now interpret the temperatures through a filter based on their affiliations, a process termed “cultural cognition.”
Please consider supporting my Kickstarter for a thermometer that is just a mirror above which is written, “The temperature is whatever you say it is, champ!” If you give $100, I’ll throw in a polar bear pelt.
Ideology clouds how we perceive the temperatures, ArsTechnica.
Get Grist in your inbox