Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Emotional response to climate change influences whether we seek or avoid further information

Date:
May 15, 2013
Source:
University at Buffalo
Summary:
Because information about climate change is ubiquitous in the media, researchers looked at why many Americans know so little about its causes and why many are not interested in finding out more.

Sixty-two percent of Americans now say they believe that global warming is happening, but 46 percent say they are "very sure" or "extremely sure" that it is not. Only 49 percent know why it is occurring, and about as many say they're not worried about it, according to the April report of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.

Because information about climate change is ubiquitous in the media, researchers at the University at Buffalo and the University of Texas, Austin, looked at why many Americans know so little about its causes and why many are not interested in finding out more.

The study, "What, Me Worry? The Role of Affect in Information Seeking and Avoidance" was conducted by Z. Janet Yang, PhD, assistant professor of communication at UB, and Lee Ann Kahlor, PhD, associate professor of public relations and advertising at UT Austin. It was published in the April 2013 issue of the journal Science Communication.

Yang says, "Our key variables of interest were 'information seeking' and 'information avoidance.'

"We found that emotions have different impacts on both behaviors and that those with whom we socialize also are an important influence on our communication behaviors." In particular, according to Yang, the study found:

• Those who had negative feelings toward climate change -- feelings marked by states of fear, depression, anxiety, etc., -- actively sought more information about climate change. They also saw climate change as having serious risks, and considered their current knowledge about it insufficient.

• Those driven by a positive affect toward climate change -- an emotional state marked by hopefulness, excitement, happiness, etc. -- actively avoided exposure to additional information on the issue. They also said climate change presented little risk to nature and humans, and they viewed their knowledge about climate change as sufficient.

• Our social environment has the potential to strongly influence whether we seek or avoid climate change information. This, the researchers say, may be because we are most often around people who agree with us about important issues, reinforce our perception of risk and support or discourage further action. The study involved an online survey of 736 undergraduates from two large U.S. universities (61.3 percent female, 62.5 percent white, median family income, $90,000).

The research survey was developed and executed using Qualtrics software and was designed to ascertain:

• The subjects' general affect in relation to climate change -- positive (excited, hopeful, happy) or negative (concerned, worried, anxious)

• How much information about climate change they thought they had and how much more they thought they needed

• How severe they found the threat of climate change to be to themselves and to nature, and its impact around the world

• How valuable they thought seeking information on the subject would be to them

• How much they valued others' opinions toward seeking information about climate change

• The confidence each had in his or her ability to find information about climate change

"Earlier research in social psychology has found that emotion, both positive and negative, is motivational and involves action tendency and action readiness," Yang explains. "Those with a negative affect may seek out information, even if it includes negative predictions, in order to reduce their uncertainty and perhaps reassert control over the situation," says Yang.

"On the other hand, those with a positive affect who say they avoid seeking information may do so because they want to maintain their uncertainty -- and their emotional equilibrium -- from negative information that might upset them as well as contradict the attitudes of their social support group."

The researchers say the study results present several ways to improve the communication of risk information related to climate change. They say the data on subjects' reported information sufficiency suggests that risk communication about climate change might benefit from these approaches:

• Arousing a sense of curiosity and debunking false beliefs about ecological risks so people are not complacent about what they already know

• Highlighting potential negative consequences and fostering a positive attitude toward learning about climate change

• Monitoring the audience's social environment and its perceived ability for finding and understanding information about climate change

• Promoting optimism that human action, such as reducing greenhouse gas, could actually combat the consequences of climate change.

Yang conducts research centered on the communication of risk information related to science, health and environmental issues, and on social cognitive variables that influence information seeking and processing, health decision making and public perception of environmental and health risks.

Kahlor's research is centered on health and environmental risk communication with an emphasis on mass communication of complex science and information seeking.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University at Buffalo. The original article was written by Pat Donovan. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Z. J. Yang, L. Kahlor. What, Me Worry? The Role of Affect in Information Seeking and Avoidance. Science Communication, 2012; 35 (2): 189 DOI: 10.1177/1075547012441873

Cite This Page:

University at Buffalo. "Emotional response to climate change influences whether we seek or avoid further information." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 May 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130515151442.htm>.
University at Buffalo. (2013, May 15). Emotional response to climate change influences whether we seek or avoid further information. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130515151442.htm
University at Buffalo. "Emotional response to climate change influences whether we seek or avoid further information." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130515151442.htm (accessed April 20, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism

Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) Operators of recreational businesses on western reservoirs worry that ongoing drought concerns will keep boaters and other visitors from flocking to the popular summer attractions. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Andy Dixon showed the Daily Mail a screenshot of what he believes to be the mythical beast swimming just below the lake's surface. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Not only are these newly discovered bugs' sex organs reversed, but they also mate for up to 70 hours. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ark. Man Finds 6-Carat Diamond At State Park

Ark. Man Finds 6-Carat Diamond At State Park

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) An Arkansas man has found a nearly 6.2-carat diamond, which he dubbed "The Limitless Diamond," at the Crater of Diamonds State Park. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins