Social and personal psychological influences on individual engagement with global climate change
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The aim of this thesis was to examine the way individual responses to global climate change are determined by intrapersonal, social and experiential factors through three streams of research. The first stream employs cross-sectional and experimental methods to demonstrate that the influence of climate change information on behavioural intentions among two African populations is largely conveyed indirectly through perceived threat and concern. My findings support a view that a failure to account for the indirect effects of knowledge may have resulted in a systematic underestimation of its importance as a basis for environmental action. In the second stream, I sought to resolve previous inconsistencies in the evidence for a link between flooding experiences and climate change engagement. Using secondary data analysis, I found that political affiliation modulates the link between flooding experience and preparedness to engage in climate change mitigation behaviour in the UK, such that the indirect links between flooding experience and preparedness to reduce energy use, and willingness to pay higher prices for energy efficient products, was stronger among left-leaning voters. These results were followed up with four experimental studies in which flooding experience was operationalised with a mental simulation technique. The experiments were designed to examine how values and attribution may moderate the effects of flooding experiences on climate change attitudes, but they did not yield any conclusive findings. Finally, I examined the interplay between descriptive and injunctive social norms as influences of behavioural engagement with climate change using cross-sectional and experimental data. I found that social norms may influence behavioural engagement with climate change indirectly through their effects on individuals’ perceptions of, and emotional responses to, the problem. However, the nature of this influence may also be dependent on the convergence of the two norm types and the level of individuals’ intrinsic prioritization of pro-environmental outcomes.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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