Psychological responses to the proximity of climate change
Nature Climate Change
Nature Publishing Group
Reason for embargo
A frequent suggestion to increase individuals’ willingness to take action on climate change and to support relevant policies is to highlight its proximal consequences. However, previous studies that have tested this proximising approach have not revealed the expected positive effects on individual action and support for addressing climate change. We present three lines of psychological reasoning that provide compelling arguments as to why highlighting proximal impacts of climate change might not be as effective a way to increase individual mitigation and adaptation efforts as is often assumed. Our contextualisation of the proximising approach within established psychological research suggests that, depending on the particular theoretical perspective one takes to this issue, and on specific individual characteristics suggested by these perspectives, proximising can bring about the intended positive effects, can have no (visible) effect, or can even backfire. Thus, the effects of proximising are much more complex than is commonly assumed. Revealing this complexity contributes to a refined theoretical understanding of the role psychological distance plays in the context of climate change and opens up further avenues for future research and for interventions.
Swiss National Science Foundation
Vol. 5, pp. 1031–1037