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Title: Do No Evil: Examining the Effect of Morality Frames in Climate Change Communications
Authors: Falter, Melody
Advisors: Cooper, Joel
Department: Psychology
Class Year: 2016
Abstract: In the United States, many people regard climate change less seriously than they ought, even when they have access to nearly unlimited sources of information that communicate the danger and gravity of the situation. This experiment targets a conceptual framework which could explain recent political polarization on the topic: motivated reasoning based on one’s desire to maintain consistency with their core values. Using a morals-based cognitive dissonance intervention, this study sought to prime participants with a core value that most humans can agree on—that it is morally wrong to harm another human for personal gain—and assessed whether that method was effective for increasing pro-environmental beliefs and behaviors. The hypotheses were first that the use of videos about how climate change presents risks to humans and risks to the environment would persuade participants to increase their assessment of the importance of climate action; second, the cognitive dissonance was expected to increase the strength of those effects; third, this was hypothesized to have effectiveness for all people in an experimental condition, regardless of their political views or prior beliefs about the existence of climate change. The hypotheses were largely confirmed, with the exception that the cognitive dissonance intervention only showed effectiveness for the specific realm of moral responsibility. This study has implications for a future method of climate change communications—a focus on presenting individuals with the idea that they already care about climate change because they already care about not harming other individuals could potentially have widespread effects across the many spheres of political and personal differences.
Extent: 81 pages
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Psychology, 1930-2020

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