Fostering Discussion: The Role of Knowledge and Perceived Agreement in Encouraging Discussions about Climate Change

Open Access
Geiger, Austin Nathaniel
Graduate Program:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
May 05, 2015
Committee Members:
  • Janet Swim, Thesis Advisor
  • Melvin Michael Mark, Thesis Advisor
  • Martha Ellen Wadsworth, Thesis Advisor
  • climate change
  • discussion
  • pluralistic ignorance
  • education
Climate change is a socially relevant topic that few Americans discuss regularly. In this thesis, I review previous literature on three potential barriers to discussion of the topic: lack of concern, pluralistic ignorance, and lack of knowledge. Following this literature review, in two studies I examine the effectiveness of two manipulations designed to increase discussion in a laboratory setting: one to alleviate pluralistic ignorance, and one to increase climate science knowledge. In Study 1, I find that increasing climate science knowledge, but not alleviating pluralistic ignorance, increases willingness to discuss climate change. In Study 2, I again find that alleviating pluralistic ignorance does not increase willingness to discuss climate change, but unlike Study 1, increasing climate science knowledge is only effective at stimulating discussion when pluralistic ignorance is also alleviated. Mediation analyses reveal that the effect of knowledge on stimulating discussion among those who believe others are concerned may be driven by increased self-efficacy and reduced fear of isolation. In post-hoc analyses, I explore these results in more detail.