Collective responsibility amplifies mitigation behaviors
- 1.2k Downloads
How can individuals be convinced to act on climate change? It is widely assumed that emphasizing personal responsibility for climate change is effective at increasing pro-climate behavior whereas collectively framing the causes of climate change diffuses responsibility and dampens the incentive for individual action. We observe the opposite result. Here we find, across three experiments, that emphasizing collective responsibility for the causes of climate change increases pro-climate monetary donations by approximately 7 % in environmental group members and by 50 % in the general public. Further, highlighting collective responsibility amplifies intent to reduce future carbon emissions. In contrast, focusing on personal responsibility for climate change does not significantly alter donations to climate change advocacy or the intent for future pro-climate behavior. These effects replicate and persist multiple days after treatment.
KeywordsClimate change responsibility Prosocial behavior Climate change mitigation
This work was supported by the NSF (grant #DGE0707423 to N.O.), and by the Skoll Global Threats Fund (to N.O. and S.M.G.). We thank G. Kreitler, L. Pomper, and the National Audubon Society for their assistance with recruitment and thank J. Burney, J. Fowler, E. Keenan, S. Kerosky, R. Migliorini, D. Victor, members of the UCSD Human Nature Group, and anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.
N.O. designed the experiment, analyzed the data, produced figures and tables, and drafted the manuscript and supplementary information. S.M.G. edited the manuscript and supplementary information. Both authors developed the research question.
- Brügger A, Dessai S, Devine-Wright P, Morton TA, Pidgeon NF (2015) Psychological responses to the proximity of climate change. Nat Clim ChangGoogle Scholar
- Festinger L (1957) A theory of cognitive dissonance, vol 2. Stanford University PressGoogle Scholar
- Fujita K, Clark SL, Freitas AL (2014) Think globally, act locally: construal levels and environmentally relevant decision-making. Encouraging Sustainable Behavior: Psychology and the Environment:87–107Google Scholar
- Gneezy U, Meier S, Rey-Biel P (2011) When and why incentives (don’t) work to modify behavior. J Econ Perspect:191–209Google Scholar
- Riley RD, Lambert PC, Abo-Zaid G, et al. (2010) Meta-analysis of individual participant data: rationale, conduct, and reporting. Bmj:340Google Scholar
- Sniderman PM, Piazza T, Tetlock PE, Kendrick A (1991) The new racism. Am J Polit Sci:423–447Google Scholar
- The Sierra Club (2014) The Sierra Club e-newsletters. http://web.archive.org/web/20150518182149/, https://secure.sierraclub.org/site/SPageServer/?pagename=ArchiveInsider
- White H (1980) A heteroskedasticity-consistent covariance matrix estimator and a direct test for heteroskedasticity. Econometrica: Journal of the Econometric Society:817–838Google Scholar