Dr. Jiaying Zhao and Yu Luo address cognitive biases of climate change in their new research

Image by 政徳 吉田 from Pixabay

Climate change is one of the most urgent crises facing humanity; people are living with the consequences of it around the world.

Psychology has offered numerous insights on what motivates people to act on climate change, understanding beliefs and attitudes of climate change, and decision-making around climate actions. Although these insights have helped shift beliefs, a stubborn challenge remains: despite the evidence, a large amount of people are skeptical of climate change and refuse to act.

In a new NeuroView article published at Neuron, Associate Professor Dr. Jiaying Zhao and PhD Candidate Yu Luo have created a framework to address cognitive biases of climate change with the goal of depolarizing climate beliefs and promoting actions to mitigate climate change. The framework outlines several predominant biases of climate change, identifies potential causes, and proposes debiasing tools.

A framework on cognitive biases of climate change


“Our recent research revealed an attentional bias of climate change, where people attend to climate information differently depending on their political orientation or prior beliefs about climate change. Attention away from climate information in conservatives can reinforce their climate disbelief and inaction, while attention toward climate information in liberals or the concerned can elevate their belief and level of concern of climate change, thus contributing to polarization.”
PhD Candidate, Department of Psychology

Dr. Zhao, Canada Research Chair in Behavioural Sustainability at UBC, says the current framework is only a start in identifying cognitive biases, the causes, and tools to help.

“While this framework heavily focuses on the contributions from social and cognitive psychology, more research on the underlying neural mechanisms of the cognitive biases and debiasing tools is needed. We urge cognitive, behavioural, and neuroscientists to enrich the current framework to collectively discover the remedy for cognitive biases of climate change.”
Associate Professor, Department of Psychology