Table of Contents
Psychological Strategies to Combat Climate Change
- Psychological Strategies to Combat Climate Change
- Recognize and Combat the Mental Blocks to Climate Change Solutions
- Assist individuals in bringing their environmental principles into line with their daily actions.
- Increase Access to Climate-Friendly Options
- Create a Sense of Timeliness
- Tailor your messages more specifically
- Modifying Social Norms to Encourage Positive Behavior
- Assist people in feeling connected to nature
- Help Us Improve This Article
- Share With Us
Scientists have known for some time that human actions, particularly the combustion of fossil fuels, are the principal factors driving these planetary changes, including a rising climate and increased volatility. (NASA can provide a great deal more information on this agreement.) Unfortunately, people’s habits are notoriously difficult to alter.
Psychologists try to figure out what makes us tick by studying our thoughts, emotions, and behaviours in both social and individual contexts. With this information in hand, we may alter our habits that are doing havoc on Earth.
However, just a minority of psychologists address climate change in their practise, according to a research issued in February 2022 by the American Psychological Association (APA).
According to the paper, the group is working to alter that with a plan of action for psychologists to address the climate catastrophe.
Researchers, professionals, and thought leaders convened in August during the APA 2022 annual conference to examine how psychology may influence people’s actions in regards to climate change.
Dr. Christie Manning, an associate professor of environmental studies and psychology at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, said, “Distress is a typical element of moving to action.” People may make a difference by acting on their own initiative. We must support and encourage them.
Dr. Manning has said that it will be necessary to make changes to systems, infrastructure, and policies in order to combat climate change. These outcomes are possible if citizens join activist groups, demand that their representatives deliver on climate change action, and engage with their representatives to urge them to enact new legislation.
Here are seven suggestions on how you might use the psychological insights presented by Manning and the other panellists.
Recognize and Combat the Mental Blocks to Climate Change Solutions
The Encyclopedia of Behavioral Neuroscience defines cognitive biases as “ways of thinking and reasoning that do not always adhere to logic.” They affect our reasoning, choice, and actions as our brains strive to make sense of the world around us. You may, for instance, disregard other studies or the advice of experts in favour of that which validates your own preexisting beliefs.
Gale M. Sinatra, PhD, assistant dean of research and Stephen H. Crocker Professor of Education at the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, argues that this is also applicable to climate science. During the panel, she made the observation, “We have certain cognitive biases in how we think.” Research, such as that published in Frontiers in Psychology in May 2018, has demonstrated that cognitive bias theory explains why individuals have problems relating human behaviour to the influence it has on the environment.
You may have a strong emotional response to new climate policies if you believe they will create disruptions to your way of life. A person’s emotional response may lead them to disregard objective evidence. Dissecting our thought processes and examining our prejudices are two areas where psychology may be of great use.
Tips on how to contribute to the solution Whether or whether we are aware of it, we all suffer from cognitive biases. Put things in perspective and see if/when yours are appearing. Sinatra advised in an interview after the conference that people use critical thinking to question their emotional impulses. This is true in particular for internet communication.
Assist individuals in bringing their environmental principles into line with their daily actions.
Clarifying one’s values is a common therapeutic strategy. When one has a firm grasp of their own values, they are better able to assess whether or not their actions and decisions are in line with those values, a factor that has been shown to have a positive effect on one’s mental and emotional health.
In regards to climate change, values clarifying exercises might be helpful, according to Derrick Sebree Jr., PsyD, MA programme director and core faculty member at Michigan School of Psychology in Farmington Hills. He suggests that individuals who place a high value on environmental protection engage in values clarifying activities to ensure that their daily habits are consistent with that priority.
Tips on how to contribute to the solution Consider what you hold most dear in life. How do these ideas connect with how you feel about environmental issues and climate change? Dr. Sebree adds that after your priorities are set, you can start looking for methods to serve others.
Sinatra argues that taking action will help alleviate climate change concerns. It may benefit you personally as well as the cause.
Increase Access to Climate-Friendly Options
According to Susan Clayton, PhD, a professor of psychology at the College of Wooster in Ohio, “the manner you offer various options might alter people’s chance of picking a certain option.” The term “choice architecture” is often used by psychologists to describe this idea.
According to a meta-analysis published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in December 2021, choice architecture is an efficient method for altering individual and group behaviour.
An instance where this strategy might be useful is when trying to persuade individuals to choose a greener choice.
Menu layout is one such example. According to Dr. Clayton, it is common knowledge that the average carbon footprint of a meal including meat is greater than that of a meal containing just plants. She argues that if the vegetarian choice is shown first, more people will choose it.
Tips on how to contribute to the solution As an additional alternative, you may use choice architecture to persuade your loved ones to make greener decisions, such as purchasing food from a farmer’s market rather than a supermarket. Inquire with your supervisor about giving workers the choice of staying in eco-friendly hotels before any others if business travel is required.
Create a Sense of Timeliness
Psychological distance and psychological closeness were examined by Katharine Hayhoe, PhD, head scientist at the Nature Conservancy and professor of political science at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, during an American Psychological Association panel.
She said that anything may seem concerning but not urgent if there is psychological distance between the audience and the event. In contrast, she added, psychological closeness makes a problem seem pressing in the present.
Data from the Yale School of Environment and a poll conducted in 2020 by the United States Conference of Mayors suggest that many Americans experience psychological distance when it comes to climate change; while 70% of Americans are worried about climate change and 80% of young people are worried, 50% feel hopeless and don’t know where to start, and only 8% are activated (meaning they are taking a meaningful action to address the issue).
She stated, “We don’t know the costs of doing nothing and the benefits of doing something.” As a result, she noted, there is opportunity for psychological closeness to improve the feeling of urgency surrounding the issue and, therefore, the possibility of implementing behavioural adjustments that are beneficial for the planet.
Tips on how to contribute to the solution Do you now reside in a region where environmental changes have been noticeable? Is climate change an issue in places you’ve visited? Share it with your friends and family and post it online. We may get a better sense of how personally relevant a problem is to us when we hear about the personal experiences of individuals we know. Additionally, you should start your own self-education efforts.
Tailor your messages more specifically
Because various groups of people respond differently to communications about climate change, it may be possible to influence their actions by adapting these messages based on what psychologists know about what resonates with individuals.
“It is important to consider your target audience,” Clayton explains. The message should aim to convince people that climate change is an issue if necessary; if the audience already agrees that it is a problem, instilling optimism might encourage them to take action, as he says.
Sebree claims he engages his audience with the gravity of climate change via the use of human tales. I discuss the effects of climate change on my own family, including the recent floods in Michigan. The story opens the door for readers to apply it to their own lives.
Tips on how to contribute to the solution Clayton suggests tailoring your discussion on climate change to the other person by addressing their interests and principles. For instance, if the two of you have a common interest in fishing, you may broach the topic of how the climate issue could affect their favourite fishing spots. You may make a connection between climate change and the future experiences of their vital kid.
Modifying Social Norms to Encourage Positive Behavior
What others around them or in a bigger group are doing or not doing (or whether others approve or disapprove) may have a significant impact on how a person acts, according to studies. According to Clayton, this also applies to actions that have an impact on climate change.
If psychologists can advise advocacy organisations and policymakers on how to get the word out that people are taking action against climate change, it would be a huge step in the right direction. More individuals will join in if they see that others are participating.
Tips on how to contribute to the solution Clayton argues that you may make a difference in your community by setting an example and sharing information about the positive actions you’ve taken. Talk to your loved ones about your involvement in the fight against climate change, whether that’s via the signing of a petition or a phone call to your representative in the U.S. Congress requesting a vote on a bill to address the issue.
Assist people in feeling connected to nature
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), eco-therapy, often known as nature-based therapy, is a method used by certain psychologists to improve patients’ emotional well-being. To improve one’s health, they may suggest activities like woodland bathing or going on longer hikes, as described by Sebree.
Being outside has been shown to reduce stress and boost mood, and according to Sebree, it also helps individuals feel more linked to the environment, which adds a more personal dimension to the climate catastrophe. (It promotes the sense of emotional closeness of which Dr. Hayhoe spoke.) Those who have a strong emotional connection to their natural surroundings are more likely to make environmentally conscious decisions, according to Sebree.
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