Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

After the storms, a different opinion on climate change

Date:
September 19, 2013
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
Extreme weather may lead people to think more seriously about climate change, according to new research. In the wake of Hurricanes Irene and Sandy, New Jersey residents were more likely to show support for a politician running on a "green" platform, and expressed a greater belief that climate change is caused by human activity.

Hurricane Sandy destruction. In the wake of Hurricanes Irene and Sandy, New Jersey residents were more likely to show support for a politician running on a "green" platform, and expressed a greater belief that climate change is caused by human activity.
Credit: Leonard Zhukovsky / Fotolia

Extreme weather may lead people to think more seriously about climate change, according to new research. In the wake of Hurricanes Irene and Sandy, New Jersey residents were more likely to show support for a politician running on a "green" platform, and expressed a greater belief that climate change is caused by human activity.

This research, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, suggests that traumatic weather events may have the power to shift people's automatic attitudes -- their first instincts -- in favor of environmentally sustainable policies.

Though scientists are in near-unilateral agreement that human activity contributes to climate change, the relationship isn't as clear to many politicians and citizens. This translates into lackluster support for environmental policies, especially when the short-term consequences amount to higher taxes.

"Americans tend to vote more from a self-interested perspective rather than demand that their government affect change," says lead researcher Laurie Rudman of Rutgers University.

In 2010, Rudman and her colleagues Meghan McLean and Martin Bunzl surveyed over 250 Rutgers undergraduate students, measuring their attitudes toward two politicians, one who favored and another who opposed environmental policies that involve tax increases. The researchers asked the students whether they believed that humans are causing climate change, and they also had the students complete a test intended to reveal their automatic, instinctual preferences toward the politicians.

Though most students said they preferred the green politician, their automatic preferences suggested otherwise. The automatic-attitudes test indicated that the students tended to prefer the politician who did not want to raise taxes to fund environment-friendly policy initiatives.

After Hurricanes Irene and Sandy devastated many areas on the Eastern Seaboard in 2012, Rudman and colleagues wondered whether they would see any differences in students' attitudes toward environmental policies.

"It seemed likely that what was needed was a change of 'heart,'" Rudman explains. "Direct, emotional experiences are effective for that."

In contrast with the first group, students tested in 2012 showed a clear preference for the green politician, even on the automatic attitudes test. And those students who were particularly affected by Hurricane Sandy -- experiencing power outages, school disruptions, even damaged or destroyed homes -- showed the strongest preference for the green politician.

"Not only was extreme weather persuasive at the automatic level, people were more likely to base their decisions on their gut-feelings in the aftermath of Sandy, compared to before the storm," Rudman explains.

While they don't know whether the first group of students would have shown a shift in attitudes after the storms, the researchers believe their findings provide evidence that personal experience is one factor that can influence instinctive attitudes toward environmental policy. If storms do become more prevalent and violent as the climate changes, they argue, more people may demand substantive policy changes.

Waiting for severe storms to shift the public's opinions on policy changes might be a sobering reality, but Rudman and her colleagues are more optimistic.

"Our hope is that researchers will design persuasion strategies that effectively change people's implicit attitudes without them having to suffer through a disaster," Rudman concludes.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Laurie Rudman et al. When Truth Is Personally Inconvenient, Attitudes Change: The Impact of Extreme Weather on Implicit Support for Green Politicians and Explicit Climate-Change Beliefs. Psychological Science, 2013

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "After the storms, a different opinion on climate change." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 September 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130919085813.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2013, September 19). After the storms, a different opinion on climate change. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130919085813.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "After the storms, a different opinion on climate change." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130919085813.htm (accessed September 18, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) A Texas man is lucky to be alive after he and three others floated for more than a day in the Gulf of Mexico when their boat sank during a fishing trip. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Federal researchers are exploring more than a dozen underwater sites where they believe ships sank in the treacherous waters west of San Francisco in the decades following the Gold Rush. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Isolated N. Korea Asks For International Help With Volcano

Isolated N. Korea Asks For International Help With Volcano

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) Mount Paektu volcano in North Korea is showing signs of life and there's not much known about it. 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