Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Works of Dr. Sander van der Linden.

Readers might be interested to hear how Behavioural Science applies to a topical issue such as climate change. With COP21 now over, society must now ponder how it might reach those aims set out. Professor Tania Lombrozo (UC Berkeley) highlighted on National Public Radio How Psychology Can Save The World from Climate Change. 

In this article the new paper by Dr. Sander van der Linden (Princeton) is referred to. Dr. Sander van der Linden’s extensive work on this topic has made significant impact.


PhD 2010 -2014. London School of Economics. Including two years with Yale Project on Climate Change Communication Lab.

2014-Present: Principal Investigator, Social and Environmental Decision Making Lab, Princeton.

23 Publications 2010-2015.

Seminal Climate Change Behavioural Science Papers 2014-2015.

1. van der Linden, S. (2014). On the relationship between personal experience, affect and risk perception: The case of climate change. European Journal of Social Psychology, 44(5), 430-440.

This paper addresses the aspects of affect and risk as a dual process cognition when considering climate change. It then uses Structural Equation Modelling (SEM) to assess the recursive (unidirectional) and non-recursive (bi-directional) relationships between these processes. Two instrumental variables of personal experience for risk and knowledge about the causes of climate change for affect are identified for further analysis.

2. van der Linden, S. (2015). The social-psychological determinants of climate change risk perceptions: towards a comprehensive model. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 41, 112-124.

This paper considers the multidimensional social-psychological determinants of climate change risk perceptions. The components of a Climate Change Risk Perception Model containing cognitive, experiential, socio-cultural and socio-demographic factors accounted for 68% of the variance. Climate change risk perceptions were also analysed as a two dimensional construct of both personal and societal level risk judgements. Indices for global/societal risk, personal risk and holistic risk perception were considered.

3. van der Linden, S., Leiserowitz, A. A., Feinberg, G. D., & Maibach, E. W. (2015). The scientific consensus on climate change as a gateway belief: Experimental evidence. PloS one, 10(2), e0118489.

This paper provided experimental evidence for a gateway belief model of climate change consensus messaging. By considering the cascade effect (availability cascade) of increasing public understanding of climate change and resultant discourse, it is hoped support for societal action can be increased. However using a Full Information Maximum Likelihood procedure to model a gateway belief found a two-step cascading effect. First the effect of consensus messaging on climate change is fully mediated by the perceived level of scientific agreement. Second the belief in scientific consensus functions as a ‘gateway’ to beliefs about climate change and onto support for action.

4. van der Linden, S. (2015). Intrinsic motivation and pro-environmental behaviour. Nature Climate Change, 5(7), 612-613.

This paper looks at the factors of extrinsic and extrinsic motivations for pro-environmental behaviour. The challenge of maintaining treatment effects over time (commitment and self-control) is highlighted as a possible weakness of extrinsic motivation. However the effects of intrinsic motivational factors like ‘warm glow’ and ‘helpers high’ is likely to outlive the extrinsic motivation of incentives.

5. van der Linden, S., Maibach, E., & Leiserowitz, A. (2015). Improving public engagement with climate change five “best practice” insights from psychological science. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10(6), 758-763.

This paper reflects that people tend to regard climate change as a non-urgent and psychologically distant risk – spatially, temporally and socially. Analysis is given that climate change policymaking has primarily revolved around technical solutions or standard economic models. However insights from psychological science can help improve policy making. System 1 and 2 thinking as well as time discounting and judgement under uncertainty is considered in relation to the abstract and distant presentation of climate change. The role of risk aversion, personal experience, personal efficacy, collective efficacy as well as descriptive and prescriptive social norms, are also highlighted as components of climate change risk perception.

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