Global Warming: The Psychology of Ignoring a Superthreat
By Adam Alter, Assistant Professor of Marketing with affiliated appointment in the Psychology Department
Humans are better at focusing on the moderate, specific, localized devastation of a major earthquake than on the great but murky devastation that global warming will bring in the middle part of the 21st century.
What is it about human psychology that makes meteor strikes and volcanoes so compelling, while global warming languishes as a political afterthought? The answer has many strands, but I'll focus on three, beginning with The Hollywood Test. According to The Hollywood Test, the content of our culture's films reflects our most vivid fears. Over the past several decades, Hollywood producers have funded dozens of big-budget disaster films. In descending order of frequency, those films depicted alien invasions (approximately 100), epidemic and pandemic outbreaks (37), tsunamis and destructive waves (20), earthquakes (16), volcanoes (14), and meteor, asteroid and comet strikes (14). Absent from the list is a scintillating portrayal of global warming, though two films, The Day After Tomorrow and Lost City Raiders, described global warming as the catalyst for floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and a protracted Ice Age. Al Gore's important documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth, is perhaps the only film that focuses squarely on global warming, and then it's long on information, and short on Hollywood stars and scenes of graphic devastation. And that sums up the first major problem with global warming: its precise consequences aren't vivid enough. Humans are better at focusing on the moderate, specific, localized devastation of a major earthquake than on the great but murky devastation that global warming will bring in the middle part of the 21st century.
Read full article as published in The Huffington Post.
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