Psychology of AGW denialism

A random post from an email from Brian Dupuis; I can’t vouch for any of this, I just wanted to have it in writing :)

On 1/31/11 3:57 PM, Brian Dupuis wrote:
> Dr. Bauman,
> Sorry I took so long in getting these to you. It’s a sampling of the papers I’ve found discussing the psychology of AGW denialism, how information is processed and correlated based on perspectives, the concept of risk management, and similar related topics.
> There’s also some great terms for this in general. My favorite are SCAMs (scientific certainty argumentation methods; the term reminds me of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, which often originate from the same sources) and agnotology (study of not knowing); to date no paper has used the term I use (“inactivist” – i.e. even if the person doesn’t appear to actively deny the science, if they’re working against it, they’re being an activist for inaction).
> The Oreskes papers are clearly the basis of her book, Merchants of Doubt, which you’ve no doubt heard of. Unless the keywords changed around the turn of the century (possible; I suspect strong overlap with ideology research, i.e. , there’s precious few studies from the 90s or earlier on this subject.
> Kruger and Dunning, 1999: (won an Ig Nobel, actually)
> McCright and Dunlap 2000:
> McCright and Dunlap 2003:
> Boykoff and Boykoff 2004: (this one’s a classic)
> Lahsen 2005
> Jacques 2006:
> Kahan et al 2007: (this is the one about source context I mentioned)
> Freudenbeg et al 2008:
> Jacques, Dunlap and Freeman 2008: (This got a lot of press; you may have already heard of it)
> Oreskes, Conway and Shindell 2008:
> Oreskes and Conway 2008: (quite a bit of overlap with the last one)
> Diethelm and McKee 2009: (A medical paper, but closer to the underlying idea behind denialist tactics)
> Doran and Zimmerman 2009: (see also this comment on it:
> Lewandowsky (in press);
> I’m having trouble tracking down the last couple I’ve found, but that’s the basic load. There’s also Scott Mandia’s analysis of media coverage of “climategate” coverage (, but so far I don’t think he’s published it in the peer-reviewed literature. (As an aside, when Dr. Andrew Weaver presented at our university the week after the emails were released, he was critical of Phil Jones responding on “scientist time” instead of “media time”, but was more critical of the media, which he mocked by baa-ing out the word “scandal”. Dr. Mandia’s analysis substantiates that with data.)
> In addition to these, there’s popular books on the subject, from those you’ve probably already read (like Mooney’s The Republican War On Science, Oreskes’ Merchants of Doubt, and Hoggan’s Climate Cover-Up) to those you may not have heard of (David Michaels’ Doubt Is Their Product (like Merchants of Doubt but for OHSA, similar cast of characters) and Donald Gutstein’s Not A Conspiracy Theory (I haven’t read it as deeply as the others, so I can’t completely verify its veracity, but the focus is on industry manipulation of public perception. The focus is on Canada, which has different media disclosure laws, so it’s harder to hide behind a maze of red tape)). There’s also two other books I generally recommend to the public on climate change – Noise: Lies, Damned Lies and The Denial of Global Warming by Grant Foster (a spectacular introduction to statistics and typical denier distortions) for the technical, and What’s The Worst That Could Happen? by Greg Craven (probably the best introduction for anyone who hasn’t given the issue a lot of thought, it’s an easy read that serves as an introduction to critical thinking and the concept of a “credibility spectrum” using climate change as a case study; this is the only book I have had any success with in convincing abject deniers to reconsider).
> Thanks for the trip to Edmonton. Best regards.
> ~Brian Dupuis
> M.Sc. Candidate
> Biological Computation Project
> Department of Psychology
> University of Alberta

Dr. Kahan also just appeared on Point of Inquiry with Chris Mooney to discus his research; it’s worth a listen and is more accessible to a lay audience than the original paper.

“When people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.”
–Isaac Asimov

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