Wash. Post: ‘Self-Silence’ & ‘pluralistic ignorance’ threaten solutions to climate change – Study: ‘The vicious cycle that makes people afraid to talk about climate change’
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People “self-silence” when it comes to climate change.
Geiger and Swim find that people are often afraid to talk about climate change with their peers because they wrongly think those peers are more doubtful about climate change than they actually are. This incorrect perception — which the authors dub “pluralistic ignorance” — then makes people fear that others will think they’re less competent, and thus, view them with less respect, if they bring up the subject or talk about it. And then, that cascades and suppresses interpersonal conversations that might otherwise help put the issue more on the agenda. “There potentially can be this kind of spiral, where people are silent because they don’t know what other people think and people don’t know what other people think because nobody’s talking about it,” says Geiger, a PhD student in the Psychology Department at Penn State.
This research, of course, also implies a way to stop self-silencing — namely, give people more accurate perceptions of how those around them think. So it stands to reason that hearing more people speak out about climate change — in politics, in marches and demonstrations, and much else — might help make more people speak out about climate change.
“If you get people talking, you might be able to get rid of the pluralistic ignorance,” Geiger says.