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The “Gateway Belief” illusion: reanalyzing the results of a scientific-consensus messaging study

This paper (in press at the Journal of Science Communication) analyzes the data collected in the study featured in van der Linden, Leiserowitz, Feinberg, and Maibach (2015). VLFM report finding that a consensus message “increased” experiment subjects’ “key beliefs about climate change” and “in turn” their “support for public action” to mitigate it. However, VLFM fail to report study data essential to evaluating this claim. Subjects told that “97% of climate scientists have concluded that human-caused climate change is happening” did indeed increase their own estimates of “the percentage of scientists [who] have concluded that human-caused climate change is happening.” But the degree to which they thereafter “increased” their expressed levels of belief in global warming and support for mitigation did not vary significantly (in statistical or practical terms) from the degree to which control-group subjects, who read only “distractor” news stories, increased theirs. The median and modal changes in the 101-point scales used to measure these “increases” was in fact zero for both groups. In addition to reporting the responses of the control-group subjects, the paper corrects VLFM’s misspecified structural equation model and identifies other discrepancies between the data and VLFM’s characterizations of it, including ones relating to the impact of the experimental treatment on subjects of opposing political outlooks.

VLFM data comma separated

VLFM data (stata)
VLFM reanalysis script (stata ".do")
VLFM bayes_factor (R script)

Simulated data "study 1"
Simulated data "study 2"
simulation script

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