In the wake of Hurricanes Irene and Sandy, New Jersey residents were more likely to show support for a politician running on a "green" platform, and expressed a greater belief that climate change is caused by human activity.
This research, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, suggests that traumatic weather events may have the power to shift people's automatic attitudes — their first instincts — in favor of environmentally sustainable policies.
Though scientists are in near-unilateral agreement that human activity contributes to climate change, the relationship isn't as clear to many politicians and citizens. This translates into lackluster support for environmental policies, especially when the short-term consequences amount to higher taxes.
"Americans tend to vote more from a self-interested perspective rather than demand that their government affect change," says lead researcher Laurie Rudman of Rutgers University.
In 2010, Rudman and her colleagues Meghan McLean and Martin Bunzl surveyed over 250 Rutgers undergraduate students, measuring their attitudes toward two politicians, one who favored and another who opposed environmental policies that involve tax increases. The researchers asked the students whether they believed that humans are causing climate change, and they also had the students complete a test intended to reveal their automatic, instinctual preferences toward the politicians.
Though most students said they preferred the green politician, their automatic preferences suggested otherwise. The automatic-attitudes test indicated that the students tended to prefer the politician who did not want to raise taxes to fund environment-friendly policy initiatives.
After Hurricanes Irene and Sandy devastated many areas on the Eastern Seaboard in 2012, Rudman and colleagues wondered whether they would see any differences in students' attitudes toward environmental policies.
"It seemed likely that what was needed was a change of 'heart,'" Rudman explains. "Direct, emotional experiences are effective for that."
In contrast with the first group, students tested in 2012 showed a clear preference for the green politician, even on the automatic attitudes test. And those students who were particularly affected by Hurricane Sandy – experiencing power outages, school disruptions, even damaged or destroyed homes – showed the strongest preference for the green politician.
"Not only was extreme weather persuasive at the automatic level, people were more likely to base their decisions on their gut-feelings in the aftermath of Sandy, compared to before the storm," Rudman explains.
While they don't know whether the first group of students would have shown a shift in attitudes after the storms, the researchers believe their findings provide evidence that personal experience is one factor that can influence instinctive attitudes toward environmental policy. If storms do become more prevalent and violent as the climate changes, they argue, more people may demand substantive policy changes.
Waiting for severe storms to shift the public's opinions on policy changes might be a sobering reality, but Rudman and her colleagues are more optimistic.
"Our hope is that researchers will design persuasion strategies that effectively change people's implicit attitudes without them having to suffer through a disaster," Rudman concludes.
For more information about this study, please contact: Laurie A. Rudman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This research was supported by the New Jersey Public Utilities Board and Grant BCS-1122522 National Science Foundation.
The APS journal Psychological Science is the highest ranked empirical journal in psychology. For a copy of the article "When Truth Is Personally Inconvenient, Attitudes Change: The Impact of Extreme Weather on Implicit Support for Green Politicians and Explicit Climate-Change Beliefs" and access to other Psychological Science research findings, please contact Anna Mikulak at 202-293-9300 or email@example.com.
Anna Mikulak | EurekAlert!
New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)
Reusable carbon nanotubes could be the water filter of the future, says RIT study
30.03.2017 | Rochester Institute of Technology
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...
Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.
A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine
21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy