You often hear people say “I remember when…” and then they regale how they used to walk 10 miles to school and a quick check of Google maps shows it to be 800 metres…or that things were colder back then, or hotter or whatever.
Well, new study has looked at how ideological and political beliefs affect people’s perceptions of the weather. The authors of the study surveyed 8,000 people across the U.S. between 2008 and 2011 and found that while floods and droughts were remembered correctly, temperature changes were a different story.
In fact, the actual trends in temperatures had nothing to do with how people perceived them. If you graphed the predictive power of people’s perceptions against the actual temperatures, the resulting line was flat—it showed no trend at all. In the statistical model, the actual weather had little impact on people’s perception of recent temperatures. Education continued to have a positive impact on whether they got it right, but its magnitude was dwarfed by the influences of political affiliation and cultural beliefs.
And those cultural affiliations had about the effect you’d expect. Individualists, who often object to environmental regulations as an infringement on their freedoms, tended to think the temperatures hadn’t gone up in their area, regardless of whether they had. Strong egalitarians, in contrast, tended to believe the temperatures had gone up.
The authors conclude that climate change has become perceived as a form of cultural affiliation for most people: their acceptance of it is mostly a way of reinforcing their ties to the political and ideological communities they belong to. And, since temperatures have become the primary thing the public associates with climate change, people now interpret the temperatures through a filter based on their affiliations, a process termed “cultural cognition.” In other words, we tend to interpret the temperatures in a way that reinforces our identity, and our connections with others who share similar political persuasions.
So people think temperatures are hotter because they are constantly bombarded by media and warmists telling us that the earth is boiling and we are all doomed.
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