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The Pennsylvania State University
Brittany P. Bloodhart
George Mason University
Sample size: 613
Field period: 09/13/2010-03/08/2011
Emotions (empathy and distress, worry, guilt and shame, boredom, pride, and hope about climate change, as well as beliefs about climate change were associated with willingness to take personal action to address climate change. Viewing an image of a polar bear and koala and reading that these animals were harmed by climate change increased the likelihood of these feelings. There was no effect of these images on beliefs about climate (its existence, human cause, and seriousness). Contrary to predictions, the effect of this manipulation was not stronger when participants took an empathic versus an objective perspective.
However, for environmentalists, the empathic perspective relative to the objective and control condition increased willingness to take personal action to address climate change. Results suggest that this effect may be a result of increased hope in the empathic condition, potentially reflecting a hope for a different outcome for the animals.
Independent variables: Participants in the experimental conditions will read Berenguer's (2007) empathic or objective perspective taking instructions followed by two pictures of animals affected by climate change and a short text about the pictures. Control participants will not be given perspective taking instructions and pictures.
Individual difference: A measure from the public affairs assessing whether participants would describe themselves as an environmentalists was included as a potential moderator of effects of the independent variable. We collapsed "yes, definitely" and "yes, somewhat responses into a "yes" category because few gave the first response.
Emotions: Participants indicated the extent to which they worry, hope, guilt, shame, authentic pride, empathy, anger at accusers, and anger at those who deny climate change guilt, shame, authentic pride, and boredom. Two emotion words are presented with each emotion to convey the meaning of the terms. We include two ways to conceive of empathy: concern for others and feeling distressed (Batson & Ahmad, 2009; Davis, 1980). We excluded the two measures of anger because few endorsed them and a positive correlation between these two types of anger suggested that respondents did not understand one or both of the items. We created two scales from the remaining emotions and left three emotions as single item measures: We combined empathic and distress ratings into one measure of empathy because of the correlation between the two measures, r(601)= .73, p < .001. Exploratory factor analyses of the six self-reflective moral emotions indicated a two factor structure. One factor represented guilt/shame for their own and the U.S.’s contribution to climate change (Cronbach’s α=.82) The second factor represented pride for their own and U.S. action to address climate change, r(601)=.35, p < .001. A positive correlation between worry and hope suggested that hope was not the inverse of worry. So, we kept these two emotions as separate, r(587)=.29, p < .001; Boredom was left as a single item measure.
Climate change beliefs. Participants will be asked about the existence of climate change, human contributions to climate change, and the seriousness of climate change. Responses to these three items were standardized and averaged together to form one scale (Cronbach’s α=.89).
Climate change mitigating behavior. Participants will be asked about the their willingness to engage in two curtailment behaviors (a transportation and a household heating behavior), one energy efficient investment, and participation in a form of collective action (contacting government officials). Factor analyses indicated that these scales formed a single factor. Thus, responses to these scales were averaged together to form one measure of pro-environmental willingness (Cronbach’s α=.89).