Climate scientists agree that a) human activity is a significant driver of recent climate change, and b) climate change is a danger to humanity. However, the general public accepts the former point, but rejects the latter. Thus, climate experts and the general public diverge in their understanding of the relationship between humans and climate change. My dissertation examines the role of intuitive patterns of thinking in public perceptions of climate change. Of specific interest is construal-based thinking: intuitive frameworks that are generally useful in the context of everyday reasoning, but can engender systematic misconceptions in other scientific domains (e.g., biology). Results revealed that one such construal-anthropic thinking-is recruited when thinking about climate change and impacts global climate change understanding and engagement. Anthropic thinking is a set of intuitive frameworks that are united in their distortion of the relationship between humans and the natural world. Among these frameworks are exceptionalist thinking (i.e., thinking that humans are exceptional to, and unique from other species) and anthropomorphic thinking (i.e., the attribution of human properties to non-human organisms). I conducted four studies to examine whether undergraduates recruit anthropic thinking in the context of global climate change, and the consequences of reliance on such patterns of thinking. Study One examined construal-based thinking about global climate change using an in-lab battery designed for this purpose. I modified sets of pre-existing measures of construal-based thinking to inquire about climate change. Of the investigated construals, participants only consistently engaged in exceptionalist thinking about climate change which tended to involve the correct belief that humans are uniquely contributing to climate change and the incorrect belief that humans are uniquely impervious to the effects of climate change. Moreover, participants performed similarly on measures of exceptionalist thinking about climate change and biology-a domain that is understood to be susceptible to such patterns of thinking. Study Two tested whether individuals spontaneously engage in construal-based thinking about climate change by investigating patterns of language used during semi-structured interviews about climate change. Of the investigated construals, participants most commonly used anthropic patterns of language to describe climate change. Anthropomorphic language was particularly common, revealing that individuals attributed human qualities (e.g., emotions, goals) to non-human organisms (e.g., the Earth, plants and animals) when discussing climate change. Interestingly, the use of such language during these interviews predicted increased understanding of climate change, suggesting that use of anthropomorphic analogies might aid understandings. Further, participants used exceptionalist language when describing both causes and effects of climate change, corroborating findings from the first study. Study Three investigated the predictive role of anthropic thinking in understanding and concern surrounding global climate change. Using a time-pressured manipulation, I encouraged individuals to either respond quickly (preventing them from using more deliberate reasoning strategies) or slowly (allowing deliberate strategies) to a set of true/false questions about climate change. Surprisingly, exceptionalist and anthropomorphic thinking only predicted climate change understanding in the time delay condition, suggesting that anthropic thinking is not readily available to influence knowledge when individuals must make responses quickly, but rather, may represent a more deliberative reasoning heuristic. Furthermore, anthropomorphic thinking was positively associated with concern about global climate change across conditions. Combined with findings from Study Two, these demonstrate that anthropic thinking could have a role in both aiding and hindering understanding and engagement with climate change. Finally, Study Four investigated whether exceptionalist thinking about climate change could be reduced by increasing the salience of conceptual connections between humans and global climate change. To do so, I used a concept-mapping task wherein individuals drew connections between human-related concepts (e.g., burning fossil fuels) and global climate change. Participants who completed concepts maps at the beginning of the battery showed decreased exceptionalist thinking about climate change causes and effects compared to those who completed concept maps at the end of the battery, suggesting that exceptionalist thinking about climate change may rest on decreased salience that humans both a) play a role in causing climate change and b) will be affected by climate change. Exceptionalist thinking also predicted decreased attribution of damage due to recent environmental disasters (e.g., hurricanes Florence and Michael) to global climate change. This demonstrates a way in which exceptionalist thinking might act as a cognitive barrier to understanding how climate change can impact humans. This body of research extends previous investigations of intuitive thinking and scientific understandings to a novel and timely domain: global climate change. Notably, these findings demonstrate that people recruit exceptionalism and anthropomorphism when thinking about climate change, and that these patterns of thinking influence their understanding and engagement with the issue. I discuss the implications of these results for education, and their potential utility in the development of interventions to improve public perceptions of climate change as well as science more broadly.

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