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Yale study concludes public apathy over climate change unrelated to science literacy
Date:5/27/2012

hat is, their ability and disposition to understand quantitative information.

"In effect," Kahan said, "ordinary members of the public credit or dismiss scientific information on disputed issues based on whether the information strengthens or weakens their ties to others who share their values. At least among ordinary members of the public, individuals with higher science comprehension are even better at fitting the evidence to their group commitments."

Kahan said that the study supports no inferences about the reasoning of scientific experts in climate change.

Researcher Ellen Peters of Ohio State University said that people who are higher in numeracy and science literacy usually make better decisions in complex technical situations, but the study clearly casts doubt on the notion that the more you understand science and math, the better decisions you'll make in complex and technical situations. "What this study shows is that people with high science and math comprehension can think their way to conclusions that are better for them as individuals but are not necessarily better for society."

According to Kahan, the study suggests the need for science communication strategies that reflect a more sophisticated understanding of cultural values.

"More information can help solve the climate change conflict," Kahan said, "but that information has to do more than communicate the scientific evidence. It also has to create a climate of deliberations in which no group perceives that accepting any piece of evidence is akin to betrayal of their cultural group."


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Contact: Kathy Colello
kathleen.colello@yale.edu
203-432-4854
Yale University
Source:Eurekalert

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