Managing our debt: Changing Context Reduces Misunderstanding of Global Warming

Abstract

We report an experiment in which a change in the context of a stock-flow reasoning problem leads to a 44% reduction in the use of an erroneous ‘correlation heuristic’ response. In its original context – a global warming scenario – the majority of participants pattern-match the output of a system to its inputs (i.e., use a correlation heuristic). In the changed context – financial debt management – the majority reason correctly that in-flows and out-flows must converge to stabilize stock. Potential applications for improving communication of climate change science are discussed.


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