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

Sabine M. Marx, Elke U. Weber, Benjamin S. Orlove, Anthony Leiserowitz, David H. Krantz, Carla Roncoli, Jennifer Phillips

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

343 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-58
Number of pages12
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2007
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


  • Affective decision making
  • Climate information
  • Environmental decisions
  • Group decision making
  • Mental processing
  • Probability
  • Risk communication
  • Uncertainty


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