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The Cognitive Psychology of Climate Change

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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00629

Regulating Emotional Responses to Climate Change – A Construal Level Perspective

  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Gothenburg, Sweden

This experimental study (N = 139) examines the role of emotions in climate change risk communication. Drawing on Construal Level Theory, we tested how abstract vs concrete descriptions of climate threat affect basic and self-conscious emotions and three emotion regulation strategies: changing oneself, repairing the situation and distancing oneself. In a 2 × 2 between subjects factorial design, climate change consequences were described as concrete/abstract and depicted as spatially proximate/distant. Results showed that, as hypothesized, increased self-conscious emotions mediate overall positive effects of abstract description on self-change and repair attempts. Unexpectedly and independent of any emotional process, a concrete description of a spatially distant consequence is shown to directly increase self-change and repair attempts, while is has no such effects when the consequence is spatially proximate. “Concretizing the remote” might refer to a potentially effective strategy for overcoming spatial distance barriers and motivating mitigating behavior.

Keywords: Climate change communication, spatial distance, Construal level theory, Emotions, emotion-regulation strategies

Received: 18 Jan 2018; Accepted: 13 Apr 2018.

Edited by:

Patrik Sörqvist, Gävle University College, Sweden

Reviewed by:

Angelo Panno, Università degli Studi Roma Tre, Italy
Maria Ojala, Örebro University, Sweden  

Copyright: © 2018 Ejelöv, Hansla, Bergquist and Nilsson. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: PhD. Emma Ejelöv, University of Gothenburg, Department of Psychology, Gothenburg, Sweden, emma.ejelov@psy.gu.se