Having fingers in all “pies” is becoming the life for most scientists,the need to understand information needs,emotions and society in general is fast growing in the quest to answer questions such as: Why is it so difficult to get through to people using scientific facts? Why do people go all out to defend what they believe in? Why do we immediately think that there is something wrong with people who disagree with what we perceive as truth? How do we make decisions in situations of risk? For years there has been contention between Science and people, funny enough, people study the very science but still can’t find a balance between their emotions and logic. Is it because we view the world as we are and not as it is? We inevitably attach our values, perceptions and paradigms into every decision we make, in the end we have different views and emotions colliding, with science just being used as a platform,hence the phrase: “Don’t let your emotions cloud your judgement”. Answers to these questions can sharpen our understanding of society and spaces conducive for multidisciplinarity and the emotions that come into play.
Though the relationship between people’s emotions and climate science is a complex and intricate one, many studies have been conducted to pave a way for better information uptake,decision making and response to climate change. Neuroscientist, Antonio Damasio made a groundbreaking discovery, he studied people with damage in the part of the brain where emotions are generated. He found that they were all normal except that they couldn’t feel emotions. He also found out that they all had something in common in that they couldn’t make decisions. In decision making, emotions are very important when it comes to choosing and logical decisions are no exception to this.
In an attempt to communicate climate science to a mass audience, the Climate Change Communication Advisory Group (CCCAG. 2010) has identified seven principles of communicating effectively to a mass public audience. The principles include; moving beyond social marketing, avoiding emphasis on painless easy steps, honesty and forth righteousness on the impacts of climate change, and encouraging public demonstration of frustration at limited pace of government action. It is found that humans respond better to emotions than scientific facts and stats. How then can climate science be tailored to trigger better human understanding and response? Science should be more focused on prioritizing the process over the product though both are equally important and function well together. Dialogue and engagement are very important in improving the response to climate change and information. Some of the key approaches in this regard include but are not limited to co-production and co-exploration of knowledge. Clearly people understand science and information better when they are more involved, probably because it’s not easy to be skeptical about something you feel you’ve played a great part in. Co-production involves tackling complexity and uncertainty in science by bringing people of different knowledge types together to collectively produce new knowledge that is scientifically robust and defensible (Anna T. 2016). With that in mind, can knowledge co-production be used to find a balance between information and emotions in the context of decision making? That is,how does a group of people decide to produce new knowledge based on their different/similar emotional responses to given existing climate information or crisis? Can it be used in a deeper context other than just being a vehicle for generating new knowledge but to also identify the scientific languages that trigger different emotions in a dialogue of a wide audience? Also,what role does the transdisciplinary space play in co-production of knowledge?
In an attempt to identify the role of emotions in global warming policy support and opposition, Smith and Leiserowitz (2014) found that discrete emotions play a significant role in public support for climate change policy. In dealing with a wider audience it is important to understand the impact that discrete emotions such as fear, mood, worry and anger have on judgment and decision-making. In a transdisciplinary environment,motivations for decisions vary widely as well,some decisions are motivated by politics and the emotions that play into it and some decisions are motivated by economical aspects. With that being said,the knowledge co-production space should be one that produces new knowledge that is unique to all the disciplines involved.
PEOPLE, INFORMATION ,EMOTIONS , SCIENCE (PIES).
The People’s piece of the “PIE”
People’s understanding of information and their decision making process is multi-faceted and shaped by many factors which include norms,access to information, knowledge types and risk perception and assessment. People have different ways of perceiving information and deciding on it whether as a group or as individuals. Most decisions are based on personal motivation and aspirations. There is however a lot of uncertainty in studies involving humans because some are not so good in expressing their frustrations towards climate change. There is also a lot of bias and testing assumptions of human response to certain issues concerning climate is complicated. A study by Kahan an Slovic (2006) found that culture can condition the impact of social influences on risk perceptions
The Information piece of the “PIE”
Generally,climate information is incorporated into services such as health,agriculture energy and water. As important as information may be in people’s understanding of science,it is just one of the factors considered in the decision making process. Information is The quantity and quality of information is very important,if people are provided with accurate,plausible information that they can relate to,hope is the emotion that will most likely be triggered. The timing of the information is extremely critical,for example,providing information about flood risks and possible adaptation measures a few weeks after a flood occurrence may shape the uptake and use of the information because more people will relate to it.
The Emotions piece of the “PIE”
“Does hope inspire more action on climate change than fear? We don’t know”. Does emotional intelligence really exist? In an attempt to understand the role of emotions in climate change communications(Daniel Chapman.2017) describes emotions as integrated elements in an interpretive and self-regulatory feedback system. The most important element in tracing the relationship between emotional experiences and action is time. It is believed that communication of information without reinforcement leads to little action,emotional experiences and messages need to be repeated over and over again before they stick. Also,it is difficult to frame climate messages in a way that fits into a certain category of emotions. It is difficult to draw concrete assumptions on people’s emotional responses due to complexity and cognitive biases.
The Science piece of the “PIE”
Scientific uncertainty will always exist due to the complexity of the climate system and feedbacks. Testing the science using human objects for verification and applicability sometimes leads to more uncertainty because human systems,values and norms are just as complex. Ever heard of the phrase: “Numbers don’t lie”? . Against all odds climate science and science in general has proven critical in sharpening our understanding of the world and how it is changing. There is no straightforward answer but the little that is known is critical and if applied correctly can sustain us for a lifetime. Who’s affected,who should be doing something? Me?,You?,Banks? All of us?
People will always view the world as they are and not as it is. No matter how accurate,valid and defensible the information is ,there will always be someone who disagrees.