Thursday, August 14, 2014

When People Do and Don't Listen to Scientists

I saw the following on a friend's Facebook wall:

This reminded me of a talk that was given by Dan Gilbert back in 2007. As I summarized when I wrote about this, this is because:
Four features global warming lacks:

A face: understanding what other people are doing is so crucial that our brain has developed an obsession about human agency. This is why we see faces in the clouds, but not clouds in peoples' faces. Global warming is not trying to kill us, and that's a shame.
A violation of moral suasion: Visceral emotions are aroused by things our brains have been concerned: food and sex. NOT atmospheric chemistry. Societies are built around who you can sleep with and what you can eat, and not about how much you can consume.
A threat to the present: The brain is an exquisitely designed "get-out-of-the-way" machine. Only recently has our brain been able to think about the future and take actions againt a future event, which is why we use dental floss and invest in 401k plans. However, global warming is still in the "R&D" version.
Ability to see absolute changes: Because we are so bad at perceiving changes gradually, we are more likely to tolerate it since it was a day-to-day gradual change, not an abrupt one.
 While global warming lacks these things, ebola has all of them.
A face: ebola is carried around by people.
A violation of moral suasion: There are many social hangups about the sick, and some people (and societies) explain one's sickness as an outcome of one's past moral choices.
A threat to the present: Over and over again, one of the most prominent things that is said about ebola in its description is it's high mortality rate: up to 90% mortality. That's a pretty immediate threat to the present.
Ability to see absolute changes: One day a person is well, the next day that person is sick, another day and that person is dead; very, very absolute changes.
 So, yeah, when people are talking about global warming, who cares about what the scientists are saying? (Because global warming doesn't punch the "reactionary buttons" that we have evolved.)

Conversely, when people are talking about ebola, who cares about what the scientists are saying? (Because ebola punches - and punches hard - all of the evolved "reactionary buttons" that we have.)

Here's the video of Dan Gilbert's 2007 talk:

No comments: