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Communication and mental processes: Experiential and analytic processing of uncertain climate information

Marx, S., Weber, E., Orlove, B., Leiserowitz, A., Krantz, D., Roncoli, C., Phillips, J. (2007) Communication and mental processes: Experiential and analytic processing of uncertain climate information. Global Environmental Change, 17(1), 47-58.

People process uncertainty information in two qualitatively different systems. Most climate forecast communications assume people process information analytically. Yet people also rely heavily on an experiential processing system. Better understanding of experiential processing may lead to more comprehensible risk communication products. Retranslation of statistical information into concrete (vicarious) experience facilitates intuitive understanding of probabilistic information and motivates contingency planning. Sharing vicarious experience in group discussions or simulations of forecasts, decisions, and outcomes provides a richer and more representative sample of relevant experience. The emotional impact of the concretization of abstract risks motivates action in ways not provided by an analytic understanding.