What is it about?

Several studies identify emotions and affect—the outward expression of feelings and emotions, as important factors that influence and drive human thinking and behavior, including processing information and decision-making. Likewise, affect and emotions play a key role in guiding human perceptions and response to climate change. This review examines recent studies and trends regarding the role of affect and emotions in climate change perceptions and associated decisions and identifies their potential to spark climate action.

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Why is it important?

According to studies, affect and emotions experienced by people towards climate change act as strong predictors of risk perception, mitigation, and adaptation behavior, policy support, and technology acceptance. Even climate communication and intervention strategies have shown that eliciting emotions, both positive (hope and optimism) and negative (fear and guilt), can in many ways promote behavior change leading to climate action. Furthermore, the expectation of experiencing positive emotions such as pride and “warm glow” can also trigger continuous pro-environmental behavior. However, these findings go only so far as to highlight that affect and emotions correlate with climate perceptions and actions, without defining any causal relationships. This potentially limits the efficacy of messages and approaches used for inducing climate action. KEY TAKEAWAY In order to design more effective emotional communication and intervention strategies, research on the subject needs to explicitly focus on determining the causal pathways from emotions and affect, towards climate decisions and action. Concepts and empirical results from affective psychology and neurophysiology should be integrated with this research so as to better understand the mechanisms that evoke emotions and how these further translate into perceptions, decisions, and actions. Future climate communication and interventions should leverage experiential narratives, positive emotions like “warm glow,” and solution-oriented and time-sensitive messaging, to trigger and motivate a sustained behavior change for effective climate action.

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This page is a summary of: Affect and emotions as drivers of climate change perception and action: a review, Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, December 2021, Elsevier, DOI: 10.1016/j.cobeha.2021.02.001.
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