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Political ideology and psychological reactance: how serious should climate change be?

Abstract

The divide in how people with different political views act upon climate change is evident, with conservatives generally less likely to take action to limit the effects of climate change. Typical communications aimed at conveying the importance of climate change and its effects on both the environment and human well-being typically stress the “seriousness” of such effects. In the current examination, we posit that using such adjectives can actually exacerbate the left–right divide. This is likely because, we propose, conservatives are higher on psychological reactance, and so they see communications conveying the “gravity” of climate change to be a limitation of their free will, thus producing the opposite behaviors of what such communications intend. We find support for our hypothesis in two studies with Americans with both dispositional as well as situational psychological reactance measures. Our results offer novel policy implications regarding by suggesting how a typical communication tactic could actually hamper the very aims of such communications.

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Notes

  1. Cloudresearch is a service that automates participant recruitment and incentive payment (without having researchers manually do so), but it nonetheless relies on a sample from Amazon.com’s Mechanical Turk crowdsourcing platform.

  2. https://www.cloudresearch.com/resources/blog/new-tools-improve-research-data-quality-mturk/

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Correspondence to Eugene Y. Chan.

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Chan, E.Y., Lin, J. Political ideology and psychological reactance: how serious should climate change be?. Climatic Change 172, 17 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-022-03372-5

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-022-03372-5

Keywords

  • Climate change communications
  • Seriousness
  • Political ideology
  • Psychological reactance