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!
Multi-year study finds 'hotspots' of ammonia over world's major agricultural areas
17.03.2017 | University of Maryland
Diabetes Drug May Improve Bone Fat-induced Defects of Fracture Healing
17.03.2017 | Deutsches Institut für Ernährungsforschung Potsdam-Rehbrücke
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
23.03.2017 | Life Sciences
23.03.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
23.03.2017 | Earth Sciences