Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Framing: Making science pretty, or at least understandable

Brulle et al (2011) conducted an empirical analysis on the fluctuations in climate perceptions. Finding that media presentation, climate statements and voting patterns by politicians, and business cycles all had a strong effect on the way people engage with science. Framing is a phenomenon from the social marketing being moved into climate science by academics such as Dan Kahan. It involves orientating an argument based on social factors such as the problems perception, the audience or the speaker. Framing is evident in the way media and politicians talk but is distinctly lacking from science.

Corner et al (2014) explore the idea of tailoring communications based on audience values. They argue that intrinsic values are stable across adult life and thus issues such as climate change should be tailored to reach individual values. Climate science has long been associated in terms of guilt, that the public are being told off for behaving badly. My very first post highlighted how arguing about animal welfare or social justice can exclude certain populations. The public should be targeted in distinct groups with the message of climate change tailored to each one. Kahan et al (2007) split the public along 2 lines individualistic-communitarian and egalitarian-hierarchical. This then evolved into the Yale Climate Groups 6 Americas project. An economic argument for climate adaption may be more suited to an individualist with hierarchical views, whilst morality and social justice may work better for a communitarian.

I’m currently reading Oreskes and Conway 2008 book on how individuals have used media influence and uncertainty to affect arguments and action in science. Science needs to take a leaf out of their book and see that objective presentation of an argument isn’t always effective. Oreskes has even argued in a recent interview with the New York Times, that now the science is settled the IPCC should be disbanded handing the problem to social scientists in order to better engage the public. I personally wouldn’t go this far, but it is true that the IPCC could repurpose a lot of its resources to tackling the biggest problem facing climate science.

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