Fostering climate change consensus: The role of intimacy in group discussions

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Public Understanding of Science

This study examined if creating intimacy in a group discussion is more effective toward reaching consensus about climate change than a focus on information. Participants were randomly assigned to either a group that spent the first part of an online discussion engaging in self-disclosure and focusing on shared values (intimacy condition) or discussing information from an article about climate change (information condition). Afterward, all groups were given the same instructions to try to come to group consensus on their opinions about climate change. Participants in the intimacy condition had higher ratings of social cohesion, group attraction, task interdependence, and collective engagement and lower ratings of ostracism than the information condition. Intimacy groups were more likely to reach consensus, with ostracism and the emotional tone of discussion mediating this effect. Participants were more likely to change their opinion to reflect that climate change is real in the intimacy than information condition.