Photo from the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment

If you see a news article about climate change, what determines whether the title grabs your attention? The words on that page serve as signals of climate change – as cues directing your attention to the issue. The degree to which your attention is tuned to that information will depend on how concerned you are about the problem. This will, in turn, depend on a variety of social and cultural factors such as your political views, values, economic status, nationality, religion, and cultural identity. It will also depend on situational factors, such as where you live and whether you’ve personally experienced extreme weather events like those exacerbated by a changing climate. Competing goals and priorities stemming from work, school, and family will also affect how much attention you pay to the problem and whether you personally take action. Interestingly, in some people these factors will combine to produce a discrepancy between their explicitly stated level of concern and their implicit level of anxiety about potentially harmful consequences. Our goal is to examine how these sociocultural and situational factors affect how readily people perceive signals of climate change.