Why People Fail to Act to Reduce Climate Change
Climate change can be defined as changes that can be attributed to human activity that has changed the composition of the atmosphere, and thereby, the functioning of the Earth’s climate system. An important barrier to public action on climate change may be that it often fails to activate our moral judgement system. Research has shown that individuals who consider the ethical implications of climate change report greater support for a variety of mitigation policies aimed at reducing climate change. There are several psychological principles that prevent climate change from registering as a moral imperative, which causes a failure to act to reduce climate change.
Although climate change is the direct result of intentional, goal-directed behaviour (e.g. use of energy for luxury cars), it is perceived by many individuals as an unintentional, unfortunate side effect of such actions, that they can’t be blamed for. Studies suggest that unintentionally caused harms are judged less harshly than equally sever but intentionally caused ones. Therefore, recognising climate change as the result of intentional action is a highly motivating cue for corrective action, and unintentional action explains why people fail to act.
The spatial and temporal distance of the victims of climate change is another explanation for why people fail to act. Many individuals living in developed nations correctly believe that climate change will most negatively affect individuals who live faraway in place, time, or both. This makes victims of climate change seen as less similar to oneself, and out-group members, who are seen as less deserving of moral standing. Research has found that treatment of out-group members is worse than that of in-group members, even when membership is arbitrary, and especially for sins of omission. For example, a Swedish study found that although US citizens are hesitant to engage in acts that directly harm either fellow US citizens or foreigners, they are significantly more comfortable harming foreigners through inaction than fellow US citizens. This directly relates to climate change - through failing to act to reduce climate change, we are harming out-group members indirectly. Therefore, this research suggests that the more dissimilar and socially distant the victims of climate change seem to be, temporally and spatially, the less morally obligated people will feel to act on their behalf.
The uncertainty of the effects of climate change lead to optimistic biases that reduce behaviours to eliminate climate change. Studies have found that uncertainty promotes optimistic biases. For example, a study found that the carefully chosen verbal labels used to describe different levels of the (un)certainty (e.g. very likely) in the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report led people to systematically interpret the outcomes as less likely than intended by the experts. This demonstrates how people optimistically misinterpret the intended messages conveyed regarding the outcomes as less likely than intended by the experts. Other studies have shown that optimistic biases cause a failure to act to issues. For example, optimistic biases are evident for many health- and life-threatening problems, such that people consider their chances to be below average, and that this undermines their interest in risk reduction indirectly, by reducing worry. Therefore, as optimism towards climate change having an impact reduces the gravity of the issue, it may also reduce the motivation to act.
The moral framing of climate change targets the moral priorities of liberals more than conservatives, leading liberals to act. Liberals tend to base their moral priorities on two foundations of individual welfare - harm and fairness. Conservatives supplement these with foundations focused on protecting the in-group. The moral framing of climate change has typically focused on only the first two values; harm to present and future generations, and the unfairness of the distribution of burdens caused. As a result, the justification for action on climate change holds less moral priority for conservatives than liberals, making them less likely to act.
Messages that hold people accountable for causing climate change as an unintended side effect f their behaviour often encourages people to engage in cognitive biases to minimise perceptions of their own complicity. Such biases involve derogating evidences of ones role in causing the problem and challenging the significance of the issue. For example, research shows that individuals actively work to avoid feelings of responsibility in part by blaming inaction on others and increasing focus on the costs of mitigation. The consequences of this reaction to perceived blame is that those responsible, who behavioural changes would be the most beneficial, are motivated to deny their complicity and fail to act to reduce climate change.
In conclusion, there are many psychological explanations as to why climate change does not register as a moral imperative. These include cognitive biases to avoid guilt, moral framing, optimistic biases, victims seen as less similar to oneself and climate change being perceived as an unintended side effect of our lifestyle. As climate change does not register as a moral imperative, people fail to act.
The Stanford Prison Experiment
Why do bad people do awful deeds?
This experiment explains so much. So fascinating. And this website is a VERY interesting way of presenting an experiment. Much more interesting than a lab report. Check it out!
Going on a first date?
Take them to a place that will heighten their physiological arousal level. Get them doing some sort of exercise. Rock climbing. Iceskating. Cliff jumping is perfect.
Want to know why? Well, then they’ll find you even MORE attractive!
Thanks to the 2 Factor Theory of Passionate Love (and many studies supporting it), it’s shown that physiological arousal (and its interpretation) is central to the experience of passionate love.
When applying for a job, you should submit your resume on a heavy clipboard, because interviewers will perceive you to be more serious about the job.
Also, make sure your interviewer is sitting in a hard chair, because research has found that people sitting in hard chairs whilst judging employees see them as more stable and less emotional than when they make the judgements in soft chairs.
So, today at uni I learnt that if I ever I become a lap dancer, not to take birth control pills.
Studies have found that lap dancers who aren’t taking birth control pills earn more in tips than lap dancers who are taking birth control pills?
And for those who aren’t taking them, they earn double what they normally would in tips during their menstrual cycle! Whilst there’s no difference for those who are taking birth control pills.
Filter Theories of Attention
e.g. 496 (ear one) + 852 (ear two) = 496852, NOT, 489562
- filter located early in processing system
- ONLY physical stimulus characteristics are processed
- filter then chooses one stimulus (on the basis of its physical attirubutes) for further processing, the other remains in buffer for later processing.
- Therefore, the filter prevents overloading of the limited capacity mechanisms beyond the filter
Support: In dichotic listening tasks, only physical changes (such as gender change in voice) was noticed in the unattended ear. Changes in language (meaning) went unnoticed.
- when words associated with electric shock (meaning) were presented to the unattended ear, sometimes there was a physiological reaction.
- a third of people report hearing their own name in the unattended ear
- “who 6 there?” and “4 goes 1” is heard as “who goes there?” suggesting that selection can be based on the meaning of presented information
Triesman’s Attenuation Theory (1964):
- filter located late in the processing stream
- Physical AND Semantic characteristics are processed
- Filter reduces analysis of unattended information
- stimulus analysis occurs through a hierarchy, with physical cues toward the bottom and semantic analysis at the top. When there is insufficient processing capacity, the top of the hierarchy is omitted.
- threshold for expected or salient words (e.g. own name, and FIRE) is lower.
Deutch and Deutch (1963)
- filter located late in the processing stream
- Physical AND Semantic characteristics are processed
- all stimuli are FULLY analysed, with the most important/relevant stimulus determining the response.
Lavie’s Perceptual Load Theory:
- sometimes there is early selection (Broadbent) sometimes there is late selection (Deutsch and Deutsch)
- The perceptual load of a stimulus determines how much attention is devoted to the stimulus. The number of task stimuli and the processing demands of each stimuli determine the load of a stimulus.
- High Perceptual Load = no spare capacity to process distractors = early selection
- Low Perceptual Load = spare capacity to process distractors = late selection
Trajectory of Accident Opportunity
Active errors are unsafe acts that occur at the front line of operations, and the consequences are felt immediately e.g. a truck driver playing a violin whilst driving.
Latent errors are associated with management and design, and its effects lay dormant for long periods of time. There is much potential in everyday life for latent errors to occur.
- Task demands - time pressure, high workload
- Work Environment - distractions, interruptions
- Individual Capabilities - unfamiliarity with task, not trained properly
- Human Nature - stress, habit, assumptions, biases.
The trajectory of accident opportunity, which explains that accidents are caused by a combination of latent errors, active errors, triggering events and a failure of defense systems. Only a hazard that passes through a hole in each of these layers lead to a failure.
Latent Error - management deciding to not service their trucks as often
Active Error - truck driver playing the violin
Triggering Event - atypical condition, such as rain
Defense System Failure
Abstraction vs. Hyperspecifity
Abstraction explains how people remember conglomerations (generalisation, the gist) NOT verbatim information. Literal meaning and surface/perceptual information appears to be lost.
Research constructed sentences that contained four ideas, but presented participants with sentences containing only 3, 2 or 1 of those ideas. Some of them were old (the same sentences) and some were new. They then performed an old/new recognition test, and found that the more ideas in the sentence, the more confident they were that the sentence was old, and they’d seen it before. Even if they hadn’t. This demonstrates how people remember the general gist of information, and the abstractions/inferences/generalisations they have made, but not word for word exactly what was presented.
Research on Nixon’s tapes revealed that Dean was entirely truthful in substance, but inaccurate in detail.
Therefore, abstraction implies that LTM maintains the gist of information and the generalisations we have made, but not detail (surface/perceptual information).
Hyperspecificity is the reduction of the priming effect if the surface characteristics of an item are changed, demonstrating that surface/perceptual information is maintained in LTM.
Here, priming refers to the difference in response time to an item you have already seen before, and a new item.
Research has found that you respond faster to the word ‘tiger’ that has been presented before, than to the term ‘car’ that has not, by 100ms.
However, if you change the font and colour of the word ‘tiger’ on the second presentation, there is only a 50ms priming effect, demonstrating that the perceptual characteristics are maintained in LTM and facilitate retrieval.
Similar research initially presented people with an elephant facing left, then when presented with the same elephant facing left there was a 100ms priming effect, but when presented with a different elephant facing right there was only a 55ms priming effect.
This demonstrates that the first 55ms speed up on RT is due to the conceptual (‘gist’) match; the fact that they’re both elephants.
There’s an extra 45ms speed up on RT if the perceptual (‘surface’) features match, too.
Research has shown that you’re better at reading the SAME inverted text (therefore, having the same surface features) a year later, than new inverted text.
Abstraction is generally found on unspecific (implicit memory) tests, such as free recall.
Hyperspecificity is generally found on specific (direct memory) tests, such as priming and cued recall.
It can be found on unspecific tests, too, depending on its novelty/distinctiveness. For example, you remember and are faster to respond to inverted text better when it’s novel/new to you.
Simple or Complex Problems?
There are four criteria that make complex problems difficult and differentiate them from simple problems.
1. The complexity
- the number of elements
- interconnectedness of the elements
- type of connections; simple problems have linear connections, complex problems have exponential connections; people have problems interpreting non-linearity.
- the number of goals - complex problems have many goals as people have issues prioritising goals
- nonobvious connection and interactions are a characteristic of complex problems. For example, delays and butterfly effects make inferences and connections very difficult to see. Intransparancy leads to ambiguity.
- complex problems are associated with dynamic systems that change independently of intervention, so you may assume that your action has caused the outcome, when it may have just been by chance. Any unforeseen changes leads to time pressure, which leads to shallow processing and premature action.