The Media, Science, and Cognition: How We Shape Our Understanding of Environmental Issues


Feb. 6, 2013


Event Series


Event Details

How do we shape our perceptions and understanding of environmental issues? Surveys and other opinion polls shed some light on the nature of perception but typically do not ask why or how perceptions have formed or are shaped at individual or community levels, or why or how they may be changing in response to new information and experiences. The forming of perceptions is likely drawn from a complicated blend of many influences: the media—including traditional sources and also social media; the willingness and capacity to entertain, process, and assess scientific environmental information; and the demands of updating and learning—that is, assessing the effects of a changing environment. And as important as the media and science may be, significant, fundamental influences on perceptions include personal cognition, beliefs, and values.

Panelists at this First Wednesday Seminar will discuss the shaping of perceptions about climate change. They will offer perspectives from several vantage points: environmental reporting, local community engagement, and crowdsourcing in iSeeChange, a recent major public media project; the conceptual underpinnings of cognition and media framing as understood from the lens of political science; and broader challenges in linking public policy, natural and social science, cognition, and belief to advance collective action and governance.

This event is part of  Resources 2020, a yearlong exploration of how economic inquiry can address future environmental and natural resource challenges. RFF invites you help celebrate its 60th anniversary by joining a dialogue aimed at developing practical policy solutions for these critical issues in the next decade. Learn more at


Lynn Scarlett​, Co-Director of RFF’s Center for the Management of Ecological Wealth and former Deputy Secretary and Chief Operating Officer, US Department of the Interior


Barbara Allen, Ada M. Harrison Distinguished Teaching Professor of the Social Sciences and Chair, Women’s and Gender Studies, Carleton College

Julia Kumari Drapkin, Multimedia Producer and Science Reporter, Lead Producer of iSeeChange

Event Audio and Video

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