Newswise — With climate change in the news and on peoples' minds, psychologists have been studying human behavior and attitudes to determine how people feel about global warming, what psychological changes might result from a hotter planet and what would best motivate people to conserve.
These were among the topics discussed Friday and Saturday by researchers at the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association.
In a session Friday looking at ways psychology can contribute internationally to address climate change, Ellen Matthies, PhD, of Ruhr-University in Bochum, Germany, David Uzzell, PhD, of the University of Surrey, England, and Paul Stern, PhD, of the National Research Council, spoke about how psychology can
help people understand the potential for energy conservation and other behaviors that mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. "Psychologists need to examine the attitudes and behaviors in the wider context of beliefs about
environmental and social change," said Uzzell. Stern encouraged developing an international agenda for psychology and climate change. Matthies provided an overview of studies in Europe that examined how to change problematic behaviors associated with energy use, consumption and driving
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In a far-reaching look at what Americans think about climate change and what they want done about it, psychologist Jon Krosnick, PhD, of Stanford University, presented findings from a series of national surveys he has conducted over the last 10 years. In one, for example, he found that the more people knew about climate change, the more concerned they were about it. "This was especially true for respondents who described themselves as Democrats and those who said they trusted scientists," said Krosnick. "But for Republicans and those who had little trust in scientists, more knowledge did not mean there was more concern."
In the same symposium, psychologist Craig Anderson, PhD, presented research showing how a hotter planet could lead to more violence. Studies show warmer temperatures have been associated with increased irritability and aggressive behavior. He presented data from the last 50 years showing that murders and assaults go up in the summer months. Anderson also talked about how global warming could create a dramatic shift in the availability of resources in certain areas. "If temperatures keep rising, we can expect to see increased violence on the list of negative social consequences of global warming," Anderson said.
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Other presentations on the links between psychology and climate change:
"¢ Frances Kuo, PhD, presented evidence from several international studies that showed nature deprivation may lead to social, psychological and physical breakdown in humans.
"¢ Jessica Nolan, MA, discussed a study of 98 University of Arkansas students showing that most were relatively unwilling to punish fellow students who did not engage in such energy conservation measures as recycling.
Presentations: "Psychology's Contribution to Cope With Climate Change: A Review of 20 Years of Research in Europe," Ellen Matthies, PhD, Ruhr—University of Bochum, Germany; "Contributions of Psychology to Meeting the Challenge of Climate Change: Opportunities for Research," Paul C. Stern, PhD, National Research Council; "Challenging Issues and Assumptions in the Psychology of Climate Change," David Uzzell, PhD, University of Surrey, Guildford, England, Session: 2182, 12:00 " 1:50 PM, Friday, Aug. 15, Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, Meeting Level 2, Meeting Room 258C
Presentations: "Creating a Culture of Conservation," Jessica M. Nolan, MA, University of Arkansas, Session: 2266, 2:00 " 3:50 PM, Friday, Aug. 15, Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, Meeting Level 1, Meeting Room 153C
Presentations: "What Americans Think About Climate Change: Insights From 10 Years of Psychology-Inspired National Surveys Tracking Public Attitudes," Jon A. Krosnick, PhD, Stanford University; "Global Warming and Violence," Craig A. Anderson, PhD, Iowa State University, Session: 3359, 3:00 " 4:50 PM, Saturday, Aug. 16, Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, Meeting Level 2, Meeting Room 257B
The American Psychological Association (APA), in Washington, DC, is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes more than 148,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting human welfare.