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The scientific consensus on climate change as a gateway belief: experimental evidence.

van der Linden SL, Leiserowitz AA, Feinberg GD, Maibach EW - PLoS ONE (2015)

Bottom Line: Using national data (N = 1104) from a consensus-message experiment, we find that increasing public perceptions of the scientific consensus is significantly and causally associated with an increase in the belief that climate change is happening, human-caused and a worrisome threat.In turn, changes in these key beliefs are predictive of increased support for public action.In short, we find that perceived scientific agreement is an important gateway belief, ultimately influencing public responses to climate change.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Psychology and Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, United States of America.

ABSTRACT
There is currently widespread public misunderstanding about the degree of scientific consensus on human-caused climate change, both in the US as well as internationally. Moreover, previous research has identified important associations between public perceptions of the scientific consensus, belief in climate change and support for climate policy. This paper extends this line of research by advancing and providing experimental evidence for a "gateway belief model" (GBM). Using national data (N = 1104) from a consensus-message experiment, we find that increasing public perceptions of the scientific consensus is significantly and causally associated with an increase in the belief that climate change is happening, human-caused and a worrisome threat. In turn, changes in these key beliefs are predictive of increased support for public action. In short, we find that perceived scientific agreement is an important gateway belief, ultimately influencing public responses to climate change.

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The Gateway Belief Model (GBM).
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pone.0118489.g001: The Gateway Belief Model (GBM).

Mentions: Yet, past research in this area suffers from one major short-coming: the bulk of these findings are based on cross-sectional survey data and thus correlational in nature. To date, there have been no controlled representative experiments (or longitudinal studies) investigating the proposed causal relationship between public perceptions of the scientific consensus on climate change and support for public action. This study builds upon and extends prior research in a novel direction by directly testing the “gateway belief” model experimentally. We posit that belief or disbelief in the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change plays an important role in the formation of public opinion on the issue. This is consistent with prior research, which has found that highlighting scientific consensus increases belief in human-caused climate change [15]. More specifically, we posit perceived scientific agreement as a “gateway belief” that either supports or undermines other key beliefs about climate change, which in turn, influence support for public action. A schematic overview of the “gateway belief model” is presented in Fig. 1. Specifically, we hypothesize that an experimentally induced change in the level of perceived consensus is causally associated with a subsequent change in the belief that climate change is (a) happening, (b) human-caused, and (c) how much people worry about the issue (H1). In turn, a change in these key beliefs is subsequently expected to lead to a change in respondents’ support for societal action on climate change (H2). Thus, while the model predicts that the perceived level of scientific agreement acts as a key psychological motivator, its effect on support for action is assumed to be fully mediated by key beliefs about climate change (H3).


The scientific consensus on climate change as a gateway belief: experimental evidence.

van der Linden SL, Leiserowitz AA, Feinberg GD, Maibach EW - PLoS ONE (2015)

The Gateway Belief Model (GBM).
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4340922&req=5

pone.0118489.g001: The Gateway Belief Model (GBM).
Mentions: Yet, past research in this area suffers from one major short-coming: the bulk of these findings are based on cross-sectional survey data and thus correlational in nature. To date, there have been no controlled representative experiments (or longitudinal studies) investigating the proposed causal relationship between public perceptions of the scientific consensus on climate change and support for public action. This study builds upon and extends prior research in a novel direction by directly testing the “gateway belief” model experimentally. We posit that belief or disbelief in the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change plays an important role in the formation of public opinion on the issue. This is consistent with prior research, which has found that highlighting scientific consensus increases belief in human-caused climate change [15]. More specifically, we posit perceived scientific agreement as a “gateway belief” that either supports or undermines other key beliefs about climate change, which in turn, influence support for public action. A schematic overview of the “gateway belief model” is presented in Fig. 1. Specifically, we hypothesize that an experimentally induced change in the level of perceived consensus is causally associated with a subsequent change in the belief that climate change is (a) happening, (b) human-caused, and (c) how much people worry about the issue (H1). In turn, a change in these key beliefs is subsequently expected to lead to a change in respondents’ support for societal action on climate change (H2). Thus, while the model predicts that the perceived level of scientific agreement acts as a key psychological motivator, its effect on support for action is assumed to be fully mediated by key beliefs about climate change (H3).

Bottom Line: Using national data (N = 1104) from a consensus-message experiment, we find that increasing public perceptions of the scientific consensus is significantly and causally associated with an increase in the belief that climate change is happening, human-caused and a worrisome threat.In turn, changes in these key beliefs are predictive of increased support for public action.In short, we find that perceived scientific agreement is an important gateway belief, ultimately influencing public responses to climate change.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Psychology and Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, United States of America.

ABSTRACT
There is currently widespread public misunderstanding about the degree of scientific consensus on human-caused climate change, both in the US as well as internationally. Moreover, previous research has identified important associations between public perceptions of the scientific consensus, belief in climate change and support for climate policy. This paper extends this line of research by advancing and providing experimental evidence for a "gateway belief model" (GBM). Using national data (N = 1104) from a consensus-message experiment, we find that increasing public perceptions of the scientific consensus is significantly and causally associated with an increase in the belief that climate change is happening, human-caused and a worrisome threat. In turn, changes in these key beliefs are predictive of increased support for public action. In short, we find that perceived scientific agreement is an important gateway belief, ultimately influencing public responses to climate change.

Show MeSH