Psychologists Study Behavioral Effects of Climate Change

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With climate change in the news and on people’s minds, psychologists have been studying human behavior and attitudes to determine the psychological changes that may result from a hotter planet and what best motivates us to conserve. 


In sessions held Friday and Saturday at the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, researchers looked at ways psychology can contribute internationally to addressing climate change. 

“Psychologists need to examine the attitudes and behaviors in the wider context of beliefs about environmental and social change,” said David Uzzell, PhD, a professor of environmental psychology at the University of Surrey in England. 

Paul Stern, PhD, of the National Research Council, encouraged the development of an international agenda for psychology and climate change. Ellen Matthies, PhD, an associate professor at Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany, provided an overview of European studies that examined how to change problematic behaviors associated with energy use, consumption and driving. 

In a far-reaching look at what Americans think about climate change—and what they want done about it—Jon Krosnick, PhD, a professor at Stanford University, presented findings from a series of national surveys he has conducted over the last 10 years. In one, he found that the more people knew about climate change, the more concerned they were about it. 

“This was especially true for respondents who described themselves as Democrats and those who said they trusted scientists,” Dr. Krosnick said. “But for Republicans and those who had little trust in scientists, more knowledge did not mean there was more concern.” 

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