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6
Human Psychology and the Media
Overview
One critical element to the future of climate change is perception. The way
each individual views climate change, whether they see it as an important
issue that must be positively dealt with or not, will determine the future
of every person on earth. Many people’s perceptions today are shaped by
what they obtain from the media—the programs shown and the stories
reported—and how they are presented—on the TV, news, radio, Internet,
or other source. This chapter takes a look at those very issues and the effect
they can have on the progression and development of a scientic issue. The
chapter begins by looking at how the messages we receive are constantly
being shaped by several factors going on around and within us. They are
inuenced by a unique combination of public input, peer pressure, cultural
values, and our own mix of personal perception based on our own experi-
ences and life events. Next, this chapter explores the power of the media, the
responsibility the media has of reporting accurately, and what the ramica-
tions can be when stories are not presented responsibly. It also delves into
journalistic balance and why it is important overall, but also why it can serve
as a roadblock in controversial scientic issues such as climate change and
how the reader can recognize the difference—whether undue signicance is
being placed on an issue that does not hold enough scientic merit—and keep
the real issues in perspective. This chapter then discusses the issue of the
advancement of scientic theories and the subsequent evolution of thought
and how the media often uses that to discredit controversial scientic issues.
Finally, it covers the occasional data aw and the interesting results that can
happen with media interaction in relation to human psychology.
Introduction
Because climate change is such a controversial issue, it is important for
people to take upon themselves the personal responsibility of becoming
198 Climate Management Issues
thoroughly educated about the topic and being aware of what climatologists
and other specialists know, what they suspect, and what the controversies
are about. Fortunately, today there are several organizations whose purpose
is to educate others about the most critical environmental subjects—such as
climate change—and teach environmental responsibility through conserva-
tion. From both the governmental and private sectors, there are many orga-
nizations that offer opportunities to get involved in ghting climate change,
becoming educated, and educating others about the latest discoveries and
developments, such as the Pew Environmental Group, National Aeronautics
and Space Administration (NASA), NASA Goddard Institute for Space
Studies (GISS), the Environmental Defense Fund, National Geographic,
and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to name just a few. These
organizations are benecial because they are generally well connected with
political and administrative information. They also keep up with the latest
research techniques and present a good source of unbiased scientic infor-
mation. Many also attend the formal political negotiations and conferences
and offer reports that are generally more neutral and objective, often giving
the reader better, more direct information.
Again, this is another example of the value of education, as discussed in
the previous chapter. Becoming knowledgeable about the issues is critical.
Although this may sound obvious, on many occasions misinformation has
been released to the public and has muddled and damaged the progression
of solving critical issues—and climate change is an excellent case in point.
The damage caused by the release of wrong or antagonistic information
often slows the progress of research and mitigation efforts—sometimes even
signicant political headway—making the acquisition of a sound under-
standing of the psychological aspects of media attention important to have.
Development
Climate Change, Human Psychology, Cultural Values, and the Media
The media has an enormous influence on what the public hears. It is the
media that disseminates information through newscasts, magazines,
newspapers, and the Internet, providing an unparalleled opportunity not
only to inform the public of the latest issues but also to play a role in
how that information is perceived. Another component that contributes
to how information is received is different for each person and is based
on preferences, perceptions, and beliefs that are influenced by psychol-
ogy and value systems. These are the sometimes-subtle forces at work
shaping people’s opinions about highly controversial subjects, such as
climate change.

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