A new study out of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology has demonstrated that the temperature of a room can affect a person's belief in global warming, according to PhysOrg.com.
The results of the study are consistent when the indoor temperature is controlled and unrelated to the weather outside, showcasing some of the psychological barriers to public comprehension of the scientific rationale behind climate change.
The study may also help quantify why public concern over global warming tends to increase during hot summer months, but tends to decrease in the winter.
Researchers began the study by issuing a questionnaire about global warming to a group of people while they sat outside, and found that participants were more likely to report that global warming was a proven fact the higher the outdoor temperature. To confirm that the feeling of warmth was what participants’ views hinged on, rather than more general observations about the outside atmosphere, the researchers decided to issue the same questionnaire a different group of individuals while they sat inside.
Sure enough, the indoor test showed similar results. Participants answering the questionnaire in a heated cubicle were more likely to believe in global warming, too.
In other words, what people believe in general seems to depend on what they are experiencing at any given moment.
The phenomenon is not unique to the issue of global warming, either. Researchers conducted a third test that looked at participants' views on more basic beliefs. Participants in this test were led to experience thirst — not by being placed in a hot room, but by eating salty pretzels. The thirstier they became, the more likely they were to agree that desertification and drought increasingly threaten people's ability to find fresh drinking water.
"What makes a future event feel more real is not necessarily well–conducted research that speaks to the event’s likelihood, but factors that enable us to picture what that future event would look like," said Jane Risen, one of the authors of the study.