Other techniques are discussed in the online guide The Psychology of Climate Change Communication from the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions. This tells communicators to ‘Beware the Overuse of Emotional Appeal’. Good; yet unfortunately not to avoid the dangers of emotional bias, but again merely to avoid any backlash from worst-case fear scenarios. The guide also advocates emotional / factual coupling: ‘As described in Section 3, balance information that triggers an emotional response with more analytic information, to leave a mark in more than one place in the brain.’ And ways in which the ‘issue fatigue’ barrier, or ‘numbing effect’ can be pushed upwards or avoided: ‘Gauge an audience’s degree of numbing (i.e., ask them questions about their levels of media exposure to climate change, show them well-known images associated with climate change and note their reaction), make them aware of the various effects of numbing, and encourage them to briefly consider their level of worry and potential numbness to climate change.’
Issue fatigue is one of our natural defenses against narrative takeover. It may well be related to or a part of ‘innate skepticism’, or ‘the key to accuracy’ as Lewandowsky calls it. Attempting to circumvent this defense will not only increase the pressure to believe and act, it will reduce still further the ability for folks to be rational and objective about the information pushed upon them. The School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia noted the barrier of issue fatigue long ago. Sophie Nicholson-Cole’s paper from 2004 regarding the use of visual images in climate communication, says: ‘It [visual communication] needs to be managed carefully because responses to emotional visual appeals can simply end up triggering defensive psychological re-sponses, leaving the audience desensitised with a sense of ‘issue fatigue’ or leading to feelings of powerlessness to do anything to reduce the causes of climate change.’ In this context ‘managed carefully’ does not mean preserving rationality by minimizing emotion, it means maximizing emotion while not triggering the ‘undesirable’ effects.
In all these writings and more, I find no concern that such intense emotive targeting and psychological shepherding may not so much be communicating the case for certainty, as manufacturing it. Note: all the sources shown here are completely Consensus orientated; I find no hint of skeptic contribution in them.
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