Apocalypse Soon?: Dire Messages Reduce Belief in
Global Warming by Contradicting Just-World Beliefs
Matthew Feinberg and Robb Willer
The first step of the model :potential helper must notice the event in question.
Stage 2: Interpreting the Event as an Emergency.. cost benefit
The third step requires individuals to feel a sense of personal responsibility to aid
the distressed other. One key determinant of feeling responsible is having a sense
of “we-ness” or connectedness to the victim
Stage 4: Knowing What to Do
Stage 5: Implementing the Required Acts
Frantz C.M., & Meyer, F.S. (2009). The emergency of climate change: Why are
we failing to take action? Analysis of Social Issues and Public Policy, 9 , 205222 .
1) helper must notice the event in question.
2) he second step requires the potential helper to interpret the event as an
emergency situation; if it is not seen as an emergency, helping will not
3) The third step requires individuals to feel a sense of personal responsibility
to aid the distressed other.
4) Knowing what to do (the fourth step) and actually deciding to act (the fifth
step) are also required before help will be given in an emergency. People
will not help if they feel that their personal resources are insufficient to
effectively cope with the emergency The cost/benefit analysis that overrides these stages is especially relevant from
Stages 2 through 5. For instance, we have already mentioned how a person might
not want to overreact in a potential emergency situation for fear of losing the
approval of others.
Gifford, R. (2011). The dragons of inaction: Psychological barriers that limit
climate change mitigation. American Psychologist, 66, 290302 .
O’Brien, C. (2008). Sustainable happiness: How happiness studies can contribute
to a more sustainable future. Canadian Psychology, 49, 289295. One is to debunk the outdated paradigm that economic growth equals
The second challenge is the popular assumption that consumption leads to
Sustainable happiness is a concept that can be used by individ- uals to guide their actions
and decisions on a daily basis; at the community level, it reinforces the need to genuinely
consider social, environmental and economic indicators of well-being so that community
happiness and well-being are sustainable; at the national and international level it
highlights the significance of individual and community actions for the well- being of all
—now and into the future.
Uzzell, D., & Räthzel, N. (2009). Transforming environmental psychology.
Journal of Environmental Psychology, 29, 340350.
ause and consequence of their relations to others and the environment. Therefore environmental psychology should
give priority to examining the reciprocity between people and environment and the ways in which they mutually
reproduce the material conditions for their existence. Drawing on the example of sustainable develop- ment, we argue
that any attempt to develop a sustainable society has to understand how the relation- ships between individuals and
their social contexts can be changed. Thus the emphasis in a transformative environmental psychology should shift to
the relations of production and consumption and the social and political relations within which values, attitudes and
reproduced.are formed, and unsustainable ways of living and working as well as the environment are produced and
We summarise our principal conclusions as follows. Behaviours need to be analysed in their
specific social and environmental contexts and within the larger context of the consumer societies
in which we live. Environmental psychology has typically focussed on the users or consumers of
those societies and environments. This has inevitably put people in a particular consuming, and
paradox- ically controlling as well as dependency relationship with the environment.
Consequently, now it is becoming apparent that current levels of consumption in Western and
aspiring Western societies are unsustainable, governments are concerned to reduce consumption
levels through changing the behaviours of consumers. Western societies are characterised by the
need for companies to position their products in the market and generate a need and demand for
increased consumption, and in many cases at any cost, in order to ensure escalating profits and
continued national economic growth. This has led us to suggest a reformula- tion of sustainable
development to include relations of production and consumption and the political relations that
produce envi- ronmentally damaging ways of producing and consuming. Such a reformulation
inevitably poses critical questions for environ- mental psychology and challenges environmental psychology to address these complex relationships in such a way as to see the relationships
between individuals, society and the environment as mutually constitutive and reciprocal.
Heath, Y., & Gifford, R. (2006). Freemarket ideology and environmental
degradation: The case of belief in global climate change. Environment and
Behavior, 38, 4871.
survey of community residents’ (N = 185) beliefs about global climate change also
assessed ecocentrism, anthropocentrism, perceived knowledge about cli- mate change,
and self-efficacy. The beliefs that global climate change is not occur- ring, is mainly not
human caused, will also have positive consequences and that weaker intentions to
undertake ameliorative actions were significantly associated with greater support for free-
market ideology, greater environmental apathy, less ecocentrism, and less self-efficacy.
About 40% of the variance in each belief and 56% of the variance in the behavioral
intention was explained by these factors. The results suggest that the relation between
support for free-market ideology and the beliefs about global climate change is mediated
by environmental apathy.
he current study sheds light on the psychological mechanisms related to lay beliefs
and intentions associated with global climate change. If climate change is indeed
occurring, importantly caused by human actions, and will have negative
consequences, then these results will help point the way toward changing
behavior. Takala (1991) stated that the first necessary step to tackle the problems
of global climate change is to systematically describe how peo- ple perceive
environmental problems and how they become aware of risks. The current study is
one step toward this endeavor.
Czopp, A.M. (2013). The passive activist: Negative consequences of failing to
confront antienvironmental statements. Ecopsychology, 5, 1723.
Interpersonal confrontations are a means of expressing one’s dis- pleasure or
disagreement with the actions of others and are effective in influencing others’ future
behaviors. In contrast, inaction, espe- cially from one expected to speak out, may be
misperceived as passive acceptance and may promote a social norm inconsistent with the
non-responder’s actual beliefs. Participants watched a video discussion between two
college students with clear pro- and anti- environmental beliefs. Prior to the discussion,
half the participants were given information to suggest that the proenvironmental speaker
had a strong background in environmental activism (creating high expectancy to confront). During the discussion, the proenviron- mental speaker either confronted or did
not confront the anti- environmental speaker. Relative to the confrontation condition,
participants reported less favorable recycling attitudes and decreased intentions to recycle
when the high-expectancy speaker did not confront compared to when the low-
expectancy speaker did not confront. These findings are discussed in the context of the
costs and benefits of confronting versus not confronting.
Smith, J.R., Louis, W.R., Terry, D.J., Greenaway, K.H., Clarke, M.R., & Cheng, X.
(2012). Congruent or conflicted? The impact of injunctive and descriptive norms
on environmental intentions. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 32 , 353363.
Two experiments examine the interplay of injunctive and descriptive norms on intentions to engage in pro-
environmental behavior. In Experiment 1,Australian participants were exposed to supportive or unsupportive group
injunctive and descriptive norm was associated with weaker behavioral intentions: The beneficial effects of ap-level
supportive injunctive norm were undermined when presented with an unsupportive descriptive norm. Experiment 2
replicated this effect in both a Western (UK) and non-Western (China) context, and found that the extent to which
norms were aligned or not determined intentions even after controlling for attitudes, perceptions of control, and
interpersonal-level injunctive and descriptive norms. These experiments demonstrate that conflict between injunctive
and descriptive norms leads to weaker intentions to engage in pro-environmental behavior, highlighting the need to
consider the interplay between injunctive and descriptive norms to understand how norms influence behavioral
Sussman, R., & Gifford, R. (2011). Be the change you want to see: Modeling food
composting in public places. Environment and Behavior, 45, 323343.
Composting biodegradable material is an effective means of reducing landfill
waste and improving the state of the environment. To encourage the use of public
compost bins, two interventions were introduced in community shopping center
food courts and a local, independently owned fast food restaurant: tabletop signs
outlining the benefits of composting and models who demonstrated the behavior.
When diners (n = 540) viewed confederate models composting ahead of them,
they were more likely to compost as well (p < .001). However, the signs did not
significantly influence composting rates, either alone (p > .05) or in combination
with the models (p > .05). Results support the idea that proenvironmental actions
can influence similar behavior in others and may be more effective than signage in
e most common reason given for not composting was a lack of understanding of
what should be composted. Possibly, with time and further experience, this barrier to composting could be reduced. No interview comments suggested the signs or
models were responsible for appropriate composting, but this was demonstrated
statistically. Possibly, diners did not recall being influ- enced by them or did not
think their influence was particularly important.
Bratanova, B., Loughnan, S., & Gatersleben, B. (2012). The moral circle as a
common motivational cause of crosssituational proenvironmentalism. European
Journal of Social Psychology, 42, 539545.
Public engagement in pro-environmental behavior and support for pro-
environmental policy are essential for achieving sustain- able living. We propose
that the “moral circle” is a common motivational source for engagement in
environmentally beneficial activities across situations and may be thus drawn upon
to efficiently promote these activities. Study 1 established an association between
chronic moral circle size and nine pro-environmental activities from different
domains. Via experimental manipulation of the moral circle size, Studies 2a–d
demonstrated its causal effect on intentions to engage in pro-environmental
activities. Together, these studies offer an important initial demonstration of the
beneficial consequences of more expansive moral circle in the domain of pro-
In a series of five studies, we demonstrated a link between moral circle size and
willingness to engage in a range of pro-environmental activities. Study 1 showed
that a chroni- cally expansive moral circle is positively associated with pro-
environmental activities as diverse as money allocation to pro-environmental
initiatives, support for environmentally beneficial policies, and intentions for
energy saving and sustainable food consumption behaviors. Studies 2a–d estab-
lished that the moral circle size is causally predictive of pro- environmental
5 March Kahn, P.H., Severson, R.L., & Ruckert, J.H. (2009). The human relationship with
nature and technological nature. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 18,
world trends are powerfully reshaping human existence: the degradation, if not
destruction, of large parts of the natural world, and unprecedented technological
At first glance, such a finding would speak to how we can improve human life:
When actual nature is not available, substitute technological nature. But such
substi- tutions contribute to an insidious problem.
described earlier, results showed that a significant number of the children
understood the idea of air pollution; but they did not believe that Houston had such
a problem even though Houston was then (and still remains) one of the most
polluted cities in the United States. In interpreting these results, Kahn and
Friedman suggested that these children may have lacked a comparative
experiential baseline from areas with less pollution by which to recognize that
Houston was itself polluted. Granted, it is not possible to exclude the
counterexplanation that the children had simply not yet learned about their local
Nonetheless, the comparative-baseline interpretation is con- sistent with the
phenomenon of the ‘‘shifting baseline’’as de- scribed by other researchers. P
Essentially, this syndrome has arisen because each generation of fisheries scientists
accepts as a baseline the stock size and species composition that occurred at the
beginning of their careers, and uses this to evaluate changes. When the next generation
starts its career, the stocks have further declined, but it is the stocks at that time that serve
as a new baseline. The result obviously is a gradual shift of the baseline, a gradual
accommodation of the creeping disappearance of resource species. . . . (p. 430)
that members of each generation construct their conception of what is
environmentally normal based on the natural world they encountered in childhood.
The crux is that, with each ensuing generation, the amount of environmental
degradation can increase, but each generation tends to take that degraded condition
as the nondegraded condition—that is, as the normal experience—a condition that
Kahn (1999, 2002) has terme
Weinstein, N., Przybylski, A.K., & Ryan, R.M. (2009). Can nature make us more caring? Effects of immersion in nature on intrinsic aspirations and generosity.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 13151329.
studies examined the effects of nature on valuing intrinsic and extrinsic
aspirations. Intrinsic aspirations reflected prosocial and other-focused value
orientations, and extrinsic aspirations predicted self-focused value orientations.
Participants immersed in natural environ- ments reported higher valuing of
intrinsic aspirations and lower valuing of extrinsic aspirations, whereas those
immersed in non-natural environments reported increased valuing of extrinsic
aspirations and no change of intrinsic aspirations. Three studies explored experi-
ences of nature relatedness and autonomy as underlying mechanisms of these
effects, showing that nature immer- sion elicited these processes whereas non-
nature immer- sion thwarted them and that they in turn predicted higher intrinsic
and lower extrinsic aspirations. Studies 3 and 4 also extended the paradigm by
testing these effects on generous decision making indicative of valuing intrinsic
versus extrinsic aspirations.
Participants were randomly assigned to either a nature or non-nature condition.
They first completed a package of questionnaires including assessments of
intrinsic and extrinsic aspirations among filler scales. Following this, participants
in the nature condition viewed slides showing natural settings and those in the
non-nature condition viewed slides depicting cityscapes. While viewing slides,
participants listened, using head- phones, to a recorded script designed to orient
them to the experience of being in each setting. The same script was used for both
conditions (for a complete script, see the appendix). After the manipulation,
participants com- pleted a second packet of questionnaires that assessed their
intrinsic and extrinsic aspirations for a second time, as well as positive affect and
Abrams, L. (2013, January). When trees die, people die. The Atlantic. Retrieved
The blight was first detected in June 2002, when the trees in Canton, Michigan,
got sick. The culprit, the emerald ash borer, had arrived from overseas, and it
rapidly spread a literal bug across state and national lines to Ohio, Minnesota,
Ontario. It popped up in more distant, seemingly random locations as infested
trees were unwittingly shipped beyond the Midwest.
ound increased mortality rates. Specifically, more people were dying of
cardiovascular and lower respiratory tract illness the first and third most
common causes of death in the U.S. As the infestation took over in each of these places, the connection to poor health strengthened.
Jackson, L.M. (2011). Toward a wider lens: Prejudice and natural world. In L.M.
Jackson, The psychology of prejudice: From attitudes to social action (pp. 137
158). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
At theAamjiwaang First Nations reserve near Sarnia, Ontario, Canada,
residents suffer from unusually high levels of diabetes, thyroid
problems, asthma, skin rashes, miscarriage, and chronic headaches
(Dubinski, 2007). Beside a creek where children used to play and deer
and birds and other ani- mals continue to drink stands a sign with a
skull and crossbones followed by the warning that the creek contains
toxins known to be linked to serious health risks. Surrounding the
reservation on three sides are 52 industrial plants, primarily linked to
the petrochemical industry. Soil and sediment tests in the area have
revealed heavy contamination by numerous pollutants known to cause
health risks, and epidemiological research has shown altered
reproductive patterns in both humans and animals that are likely linked
to the environmental toxicity (E. Hood, 2005). On the other side of the
coun- try inAlberta, in the areas surrounding theAthabasca oil sands
(an area in the northern part of the province where oil is extracted from
deposits of sand, clay, and water), First Nations communities suffer
from high rates of thyroid diseases and rare cancers. Some in these
communities are employed at the oil sands “raking in the carcasses of
ducks floating on vast pools of rotten water, the by-product of the
sands’ oil-extraction methods”
people who are more prejudiced seem to be less concerned about the
environment (Chandler & Dreger, 1993). In addi- tion, environmental
crises increase the risk of prejudice and conflict between groups as
groups compete over access to increasingly scarce natural resources
(Homer-Dixon, Boutwell, & Rathjens, 1993). Mo
As this chapter’s opening example showed, across NorthAmerica minor- ity groups are disproportionately exposed to environmental
contaminants, a problem known as environmental inequality (e.g.,
Mohai & Saha, 2007) or environmental racism (e.g., Santiago-Rivera,
Talka, & Tully, 2006). In Canada, the problem exists for First Nations
people and a variety of other groups. Immigrant and refugee groups as
well as low-income people are also exposed to more environmental
burdens than are more privileged groups because of the proximity
between industries that generate pollution and communities in which
underprivileged groups often live (Jafri, 2008). In the United States,
race and ethnicity are among the best predictors of exposure to
environmen- tal pollution; r
Scannell, L., & Gifford, R. (2010). The relations between natural and civic place
attachment and proenvironmental behavior. Journal of Environmental
Psychology, 30, 289297.
community sample of residents (N 1⁄4 104) from two proximate towns with different environmental reputations
reported the strength of their civic and natural place attachment, their performance of various pro-environmental
behaviors, and a number of sociodemographic characteristics. Regression analyses revealed that natural