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Irina Feygina: Understanding and responding to motivated cognition processes underlying climate change skepticism and denial

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2:45 PM, Friday 28 May 2021 EDT (1 hour 15 minutes)

Climate change skepticism and disengagement are rooted in deeply seated human motives to belong, to identify with and feel accepted by groups and communities, and to defend and uphold social and economic systems and ideologies. These tendencies come into conflict with acknowledging the reality of climate change, which is threatening to many aspects of established systems and the status quo. They give rise to motivated cognition processes that result in dismissing evidence for climate change and its anthropogenic causes, and undermine willingness to take mitigative and adaptive action.

Efforts to overcome skepticism and foster engagement need to address, and even harness, these motives, and develop a toolbox of interventions that can be used in communication and program design and implementation in policy, organizational, and educational settings. These include understanding and speaking to people’s needs and realities, presenting local, relevant, and psychologically proximal information, communicating through trusted messengers, supporting bidirectional communication and community engagement, drawing on identity and group dynamics to engage in shared action, and fostering empowerment and efficacy through a focus on solutions which are aligned with needs to protect and uphold the systems people care about.

In this talk, I will review evidence for the role of identity, group belonging, and system justification in motivating climate skepticism, and share findings from climate communication efforts that address these motives to support climate engagement.

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