There is a compelling book from 2015 I wish everyone one read. What We Think About When We Try Not to Think About Global Warming by Per Espen Stoknes not only dabbles in compelling science but presents powerful strategies for science communicators when confronted with climate science deniers--but feel free to apply these useful principles to all polarizing topics of your choosing. I found it hard not to think of the muddy science of Alzheimer's disease.
Here is how I stitched the threads. A paralyzing amount of scientific facts and certainty of science appear to be growing in Alzheimer's research. But if you look at results, they are dismal. An approximate 99.6 failure rate in developing an effective therapy or treatment hasn't ceased prevailing habitual solutions.
The Alzheimer Association International Conference was held this week and many in attendance are sticking so hard to their science that they have forgotten the people. What is the saying? One is a person but 5.4 million is a statistic.
Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 (RCP8.5) from climate science is one of four pathways used for climate modeling. Alzheimer Disease predictions of a global zombie apocalypse in 2050 would be the RCP8.5 of the research efforts of many societies and research institutions.
RCP8.5 assumes a nightmarish world even before climate impacts, resulting from substantial changes to long-standing trends. It provides AR5 with an essential worst case scenario necessary for conservative planning.
- Create Distance from issues that seems far downstream from immediate action. Transition messages from a far off distant possibility to the here and now. Testing for pre-Alzheimer's disease anyone?
- Doom and gloom messages. Think of the predicted zombie apocalypse, campaigns titled the long goodbye, and movies that feature rare early onset Alzheimers without the distinction between Alzheimers disease in the elderly. I'm talking to you Still Alice.
- Cognitive Dissonance--We have data indicating the impact of social correlates on risk of Alzheimer's disease--the media seems to downplay the prevention angle.
- Denial- Adopting self-defense strategies. Many marketing campaigns in Alzheimer's disease rely on fire-hose of information forgetting that denial is not based on ignorance or lack of information.
- iDentity is the last defense but often the most persistent form of resistance. Think of confirmation bias. Our perspectives are influenced by our social, professional, and cultural identities. How effective are life-style intervention messages? When we are encouraged to change our self-identity we can be resistant. Hoping for a cure seems like an easier solution for many.
"And, I should be clear: It’s not that people don’t care. The problem is that people can’t see there are any effective solutions. Then they feel helpless, start distancing themselves from the issue, and give little priority to it. Our limited pool of what we most often worry about is often filled with concerns closer to us— our job, family, health, and education."
Knowing what the barriers are, though, and deciding what to do about them are two very different things. We’ve already tried breaking through them with ever more facts and eight-hundred-plus-page reports. We’ve gone down that road, and repeatedly found ourselves in a hole. The combined effect of the five D’s guarantees failure. If we find ourselves in a hole, it may be time to stop digging. It may be time, too, to leave behind attempts to hammer angrily away at the defenses, and stop blaming the other side of denial altogether. Something has to change.
A different story is starting to be told. A different result is waiting to happen.
There may be ways to simply get around and beyond the Five D’s. Good coaches rarely attack the habitual defenses head-on, but look for opportunities to do something else. Remember the infamous Maginot Line? The French created this heavily fortified line of defense along their border with Germany prior to World War II, hoping it would keep them safe from German invasion. But the mobile German army simply evaded the defense and went around it. They invaded France through Belgium instead.--Per Espen Stoknes