Exploring the role of incidental emotions in support for climate change policy

Abstract

What role, if any, do incidental emotions play in people’s beliefs about climate change and support for climate mitigation policies? This question has received surprisingly little attention, despite a growing recognition that reactions to climate change information are shaped by various contextual factors beyond the information itself. Drawing on recent perspectives in psychology and communication, we conducted an experiment (N = 719) in which participants were randomly assigned to one of two emotion-induction treatments (guilt or anger) or to a no-emotion (neutral) control condition immediately before reading a news story about negative climate impacts and reporting on related policy preferences (e.g., support for taxing carbon polluters). Results revealed a number of significant effects, some of which emerged for the sample overall (e.g., guilt increased support for particular climate mitigation policies) and some that depended on personal and message factors suggested by prior research (e.g., political affiliation and social distance). Overall, these findings suggest that emotions may play an important role in guiding how the public processes and reacts to information about climate change.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    We opted not to employ a no-article control condition to keep the informational context in which participants reported their policy preferences roughly equivalent and to help bolster the credibility of the cover story.

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Correspondence to Hang Lu.

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Lu, H., Schuldt, J.P. Exploring the role of incidental emotions in support for climate change policy. Climatic Change 131, 719–726 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-015-1443-x

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Keywords

  • Climate Policy
  • Lyme Disease
  • Social Distance
  • Policy Preference
  • Climate Change Policy