While They’re Young

We’ve been talking a lot about how to “change people’s minds” — how, when, if, etc. Here’s some recent research that supports much of what we’ve concluded: most adults are set in their mindsets and filter out information that doesn’t align with their values, but children and teenagers are more open-minded. I’ll post the whole extract below. Emphasis mine:

Research shows that many adults interpret scientific findings within a framework of preexisting values and beliefs.

STEVENSON: “Among adults, our risk perceptions of climate change really have very little to do with how much we understand science and has much more to do with who we are.”

That’s Kathryn Stevenson, a researcher at North Carolina State University. She says that when someone denies that global warming is real, even the most convincing climate science can make them more entrenched in their views.

STEVENSON: “They’re just really good at taking these facts and filing them away in ways that reinforce their world views. The implication is that we can’t just teach people, we can’t just throw the science at them. It’s not going to be convincing enough. We have to appeal to people’s values and all of that.”

However, most adolescents have not yet formed strong ideological views, so they tend to respond differently when presented with the science of climate change.

take the kids outside!
take the kids outside!

STEVENSON: “The effect of world views seems to go away with kids instead of become stronger as knowledge increases.”

Stevenson says that is good news for educators.

STEVENSON: “So climate change education the way we’re doing it, which is more science based with kids, that’s probably going to be effective.”

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