Social and Environmental Research Institute
Kathryn [dot] L [dot] Doherty [at] gmail [dot] com
From Alarm to Action: Closing the Gap Between Belief and Behavior in Response to Climate Change
The present study tested the assertion that efficacy beliefs and descriptive social norms are powerful influences on Alarmed individuals’ public action to reduce climate change. This was done by assessing: (1) the ability of the value belief norm theory (VBN) to explain the Alarmed segment’s public mitigation action, (2) if the addition of four efficacy variables and descriptive social norms increased the ability of the VBN to explain public mitigation action, and (3) how and to what extent these added variables affect public mitigation action. Data were collected through an electronic survey of 702 Vermonters, and analyzed with structural equation modeling. Five critical findings emerged: (1) The addition of the four efficacy variables and descriptive social norms to the original VBN produced a better fitting model with improved explanatory ability for public mitigation action for Alarmed individuals; (2) Efficacy percepts were significant positive influences on public mitigation action. Alarmed actors had significantly higher efficacy beliefs (self, personal response, and collective response) than non-actors; (3) Descriptive social norms and personal responsibility for causing climate change significantly and positively influenced efficacy percepts; (4) Descriptive social norms significantly and positively influenced public mitigation action. Alarmed actors had significantly higher descriptive social norms scores than non-actors; (5) Unless people feel that they are capable of taking action, that their individual and collective efforts are effective, and that similar others are participating, they will not be inclined to engage in public mitigation action. The findings of this study have implications for future VBN research and climate change communications.
Doherty, K. and Webler, T. (2016) Social norms and efficacy beliefs drive the Alarmed segment's public-sphere climate actions, Nature Climate Change. Online first at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/NCLIMATE3025
Related Conference presentations:
Doherty, K. (2014). From alarm to action: Narrowing the gap between belief and behavior in response to climate change. Behavior, Energy, and Climate Change Annual Conference, Washington DC.
Doherty, K. (2011). Alarmed but not acting: An examination of the inconsistency between beliefs and behavior in response to climate change. Poster presentation, Association of Environmental Studies and Science Annual Conference, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT.
Related Invited talks:
Doherty, K. (2016). Social norms and efficacy beliefs drive the Alarmed segment's public climate actions. Center for Climate Change Communication, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA.
Doherty, K. (2015). What motivates Vermont’s climate activists? Institute for Energy and the Environment, Vermont Law School, South Royalton, VT.
Doherty, K. (2014). Bridging the gap between alarm and activism regarding climate change. Dartmouth College’s Environmental Economics, Management, and Governance Seminar Series, Tuck School of Business, Hanover, NH.
Doherty, K. (2014). From Alarm to Action: Closing the Gap Between Belief and Behavior in Response to Climate Change. Doctoral Dissertation. Antioch University New England. Available here: Ohiolink Permalink