Friday, 2 October 2009

Interesting articles on psychology of denial

The term "climate denial" gets some people annoyed, as though they are being lumped in with Holocaust deniers. I think that's off the mark - that's hardly the only connotation of the term "denial." Let's set aside that issue, and consider the use of the term "denial" in psychology, as in being "in denial" about a problem. Lots of thoughts are unwelcome or uncomfortable, and everyone is prone to avoiding such discomfort by trying not to think about those things.

I find it useful to be able to talk about public reaction to news about global warming, or to calls for change to deal with it, in terms of psychological denial. "Let's just hope the scientists are all overreacting"; or, "let's just hope the scientists are going to invent some great new technology that will save us all, and save us having to make big changes"; or, "let's just deflect the unwelcome messages by reading websites that say it's all not true." I think that sums up a lot of what's going on these days, right?

Here's an eloquent posting summing up an academic paper on this topic: The Social Organization of Denial. I like the emphasis on the social nature of climate denial; it's a shared behaviour, rather than a personal foible that just happens to appear in large numbers of people independently.

Well Sharp is a blog I had not come across before, by New Zealanders David Parker and Barry Larsen. Worth a look.

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