Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Climate change sceptic films more influential than advocacy films, claims study

Eminent scientists have condemned films that are sceptical about climate change. After airing of the Great Global Warming Swindle in 2007, for example, Sir Martin Rees, President of the Royal Society at the time, said "those who promote fringe scientific views but ignore the weight of evidence are playing a dangerous game."

Of course there are also films that affirm the idea that human activity has contributed to the rise in global temperatures - Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth is probably the most well known. Unfortunately for environmentalists and people who believe global warming is a threat, a new study claims that sceptical films have a more powerful influence on viewers' attitudes than climate change advocacy films.

Tobias Greitemeyer recruited 97 students at the University of Innsbruck. Thirty-three of them watched the climate change affirming film Children of The Flood - a futuristic tale depicting the life-threatening impact of melted ice-caps. Thirty-six watched The Great Global Warming Swindle, which challenges the idea that global warming is affected by human activity. The remainder acted as controls and watched a neutral film Forgotten Country in The Mekong Region, about life in Laos. The participants watched the first 15 minutes of each film.

Although the students were allocated randomly to the different conditions, those who watched the sceptic film subsequently reported more negative attitudes toward the environment than those who watched the neutral film or the affirming film. By contrast, there was no difference in attitudes to the environment between students who watched the neutral film and those who watched the affirming film.

A second study was similar but this time 92 students watched either Six Degrees Could Change the World (climate change affirming); The Climate Swindle: How Eco-mafia Betrays Us; or Planet Earth: Caves (a neutral film). Also, Greitemeyer added in a questionnaire about participants' concern for the future.

This time participants who watched the sceptical film ended up with greater apathy towards the environment as compared with participants who watched the neutral or affirming films, an outcome that was mediated by their having reduced concern for the future in general. This was the pattern both for participants who tended to engage in pro-environment behaviours in their everyday lives and those who didn't so much. As in the first study, there were no differences in post-viewing environment attitudes between those who'd watched the affirmative or neutral films.

When it comes to a lack of belief in the human causes of global warming, Greitemeyer said his results suggest "the media are part of the problem, but may not easily be used to be part of the solution." He thinks sceptical films have a negative influence on people's attitudes, but that films advocating for the human impact on climate change are ineffectual.

Unfortunately his claims are undermined by the limitations of the study. Above all it's unfortunate that he didn't measure his participants' baseline attitudes. This means we can't get any idea of the size of the influence of the films and we have to trust on faith that the randomisation to conditions was effective (i.e. that students in the different film conditions didn't differ in their attitudes before watching the films). There is also a question mark over how much the results would generalise to a non-student sample.

Indeed, in a subsequent survey of different students at the same uni, Greitemeyer found that they had an overwhelming bias towards believing in the reality of human effects on global warming. Therefore, perhaps the sceptical films appeared to be more influential because they contradicted students' pre-existing beliefs whereas the affirmative films told the students only what they already knew. A final limitation is the lack of analysis of the content of the films - we don't know what the active ingredients might be nor whether these were found equally in sceptical and affirmative films.

_________________________________ ResearchBlogging.org

Tobias Greitemeyer (2013). Beware of climate change skeptic films. Journal of Environmental Psychology DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvp.2013.06.002

Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

"he didn't measure his participants' baseline attitudes".
This is not entirely correct, he did record environmental views before showing the films in Study 2.

The paper was discussed at
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/07/01/skeptic-movies-meet-their-goal-whereas-alarmist-ones-does-not/

Christian Jarrett said...

No, he assessed "environmentalism behaviour" not views or attitudes. You're correct this was an improvement on study 1, but crucially he didn't measure the baseline levels of his dependent variable - i.e. a score of apathy towards the environment. This means we can't see the size of change. Unfortunately, the author adds in a footnote that environmentalism behaviour scores actually differed across the film conditions - being higher in the neutral condition. "This suggests that random assignment was not successful" he admits. On the plus side, and as I noted in my report, the differences in post-viewing attitudes between conditions held regardless of pre-existing environmentalism behaviour scores.

neil craig said...

Who paid for this obvious farrago.

Oh. It was the taxpayer. Who would have expected that?

Anonymous said...

Beware the BOGY MAN too! He might get you.

This brings GALES of laughter to us engineering types, who (as in my case) got "straight A's" in our radiation heat transfer courses.

We actually know who Elsasser was, what the classic methods of radiation heat transfer analysis are, and why CO2 has for many years, been treated as a "neutral" in the rad. heat balance.

Max Hugoson, Minnetonka, MN

JS said...

Is there anyone publishing in psychology journals who has not swallowed the alarmist line on climate, someone who can see the difference between a conjecture and observations, and the difference between reality and loaded computer models? I have nothing except a supine acceptance of a climate crisis from psychologists, despite the extremely weak case for it.

Emmy said...

Well, we're pretty sure that (as is stated) troubling films on global warming are not effective in motivating people to change on any significant level.

The denier scandal films hinge on deception anyway. They're propaganda and twisted interpretations of the data. So they reach their objectives.

In a practical sense we know how to change people's behavior - peer pressure. The smallest good example spreads like a virus.

Now we simply must force our government to get rid of the corruption - like the Charles Monnett scandal.

It's nice to know what effect those films have on attitude. But really, this is about making a measurable difference to the environment, not degrees of behavior change. I hope the social scientists get on this right away. It's a human problem. We're counting on you guys.

Anonymous said...

@Emmy To paraphrase what you wrote. - And provide corrections in brackets[].

Well, we're pretty sure that (as is stated) troubling films on global warming are not effective in motivating people to change on any significant level.

The [AGW BELIEVER] films [as in Gores Inconvenient Truth with more that 30 VERIFABLE LIES as proven in a court of law] hinge on deception anyway. They're propaganda and twisted interpretations of the data. So they reach their objectives.

In a practical sense we know how to change people's behavior - peer pressure. The smallest good example spreads like a virus. [AND YOU HAVE THE MSM TO HELP FOR FREE]

Now we simply must force our government to get rid of the corruption - like the Charles Monnett scandal. [Then we can push the UN objective of a globalized government.]

It's nice to know what effect those films have on attitude. But really, this is about making a measurable difference to the [globalization of the government], [because CO2 is a scam - it has been proven that if man stopped producing CO2 that it would have no effect any way.] not degrees of behavior change. I hope the social scientists get on this right away. It's a human problem. [The real problem we are trying to solve is the HUMAN PROBLEM - NOT GLOBAL WARMING] We're counting on you guys.

The AGW crowd is spending a million times as much spreading their propaganda yet the skeptics keep advancing WHY? Could it be that TRUTH WINS? Do your own research - any thing I point you to you will call a lie. WISE UP!

fairmack said...

Gore's Global Warming Secret

You'll never guess what initially inspired Al Gore's "temperature" mania - the one that's raised our tempers.
Well, Gore is from Tennessee where you can hear Bible belt preachers warning about "Hell fire" in the next life.
And Gore, concerned about this life, is surrounded by those who also know about the prediction in Revelation (chapter 16) of the coming time when a change in the sun will result in humans being "scorched with great heat"!
It wouldn't be convenient if folks were to discover that Gore, a liberal, was influenced by the handbook closely associated with Christian fundamentalists!
If Tennessee fundy preachers could look at the same predictions-packed apocalyptic book and stretch forward in time some future events, Gore could surely do the same thing and stretch forward the "great heat" and turn it into cold cash.
All of us are well aware of the incredible influence that the Gore-orrhea plague has had on the whole world including the White House!
But Gore's overlooked another Bible verse which says that "there is nothing hid that shall not be revealed."
The real "inconvenient truth" is that the SS Al Gore is now stuck in ice - and what we need is a Gorebreaker!

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