Compassion for climate change victims and support for mitigation policy

5 downloads 0 Views 1MB Size Report
Jan 15, 2016 - (notably, fear) as an influence tool in the persuasion literature, the ... compassion should serve as the mediator between the appeal and.

Journal of Environmental Psychology 45 (2016) 192e200

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

Journal of Environmental Psychology journal homepage:

Compassion for climate change victims and support for mitigation policy Hang Lu*, Jonathon P. Schuldt Department of Communication, Cornell University, USA

a r t i c l e i n f o

a b s t r a c t

Article history: Received 23 November 2015 Received in revised form 11 January 2016 Accepted 13 January 2016 Available online 15 January 2016

The lack of broad public support for climate change mitigation policy hampers efforts to adopt timely approaches to the climate crisis. Echoing prior calls for examining the role of emotions in climate change communication, this study explores effects of compassion on support for government actions to address climate change. A diverse sample of U.S. participants (N ¼ 400) was randomly assigned to different message treatments as part of a 2 (compassion: high or low)  2 (climate change cue: present or absent) between-subjects factorial design. Results showed that the high-compassion condition elicited greater self-reported compassion and stronger belief that a climate-related humanitarian crisis was caused by human activities, both of which, in turn, mediated increased policy supportdparticularly among political conservatives and moderates (compared to liberals). Overall, these findings add to the nascent literature examining emotions in climate change public opinion and help inform compassion appeals in climate change communication. © 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Compassion Climate change Policy support Communication Emotional appeals

Despite increasing evidence that climate change is primarily caused by human activities and is already producing severe negative impacts, the American public's concern about climate change has remained relatively stable in recent years (Leiserowitz, Maibach, Roser-Renouf, Feinberg, & Rosenthal, 2015) and climate change continues to emerge near the bottom of the public's policy priorities for the President and Congress (Pew, 2015a). Because the preferences and demands of citizens play a crucial and foundational role in the government policy agenda, timely and effective actions to mitigate and/or adapt to climate change will likely require broad public support for building political will (Bliuc et al., 2015). However, the persistent partisan divide on the climate issue (e.g., McCright & Dunlap, 2011; Pew, 2015b) threatens to undermine policy initiatives that the world's leading scientists believe will be critical if humanity is to avert the most severe warming projections and their negative impacts (Drews & van den Bergh, 2015). Due in part to the disconnect between the beliefs of scientists and the public on this issue, understanding how message features influence public support for climate policy has emerged as a major focus for research in environmental communication (Drews & van

den Bergh, 2015). Some have suggested that the lack of widespread public support on climate policy may be due, in part, to ineffective communication efforts that fail to engage and resonate with individuals of diverse backgrounds (e.g., political ideologies, cultural worldviews; Newell & Pitman, 2010; Kahan, Jenkins-Smith, & Braman, 2011; Pearson & Schuldt, 2014). Efforts to enhance climate change communication usually concentrate on cognitive framing aspects related to the development of a persuasive message (e.g., Nisbet, Hart, Myers, & Ellithorpe, 2013; Schuldt, Konrath, & Schwarz, 2011; Wiest, Raymond, & Clawson, 2015). Recently, research has begun to explore the role of emotions, a powerful motivator for human behaviors, in influencing how individuals process and react to climate change information (e.g., Chadwick, 2015; Lu & Schuldt, 2015). Building on this emerging literature as well as research on political ideology and climate change communication, the present study investigates how compassionda positive emotion that is frequently featured in narratives about the negative impacts of climate change for human beingsd influences individuals' support for government actions to address climate change and how it may interact with individuals' political ideology. 1. Emotions and climate change communication

* Corresponding author. E-mail addresses: [email protected] (H. Lu), [email protected] (J.P. Schuldt). 0272-4944/© 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Barriers to establishing effective climate change communication

H. Lu, J.P. Schuldt / Journal of Environmental Psychology 45 (2016) 192e200

have been well documented (Markowitz & Shariff, 2012; Moser, 2010; Van der Linden, Maibach, & Leiserowitz, 2015). Among them are the perception that climate change is a distant issue and the fact that different segments of the public have divergent opinions regarding its existence and origins (Bliuc et al., 2015; Spence, Poortinga, & Pidgeon, 2012). Researchers have sought to address these communication barriers by examining how different ways of framing the causes and impacts of climate change (e.g., attribution of responsibility, social distance, etc.) can shape individuals' attitudes and behaviors (e.g., Hart & Nisbet, 2012; Jang, 2013). These efforts have led to promising but also mixed results. While emotional appeals are often conceptualized as a particular type of framing and frequently promoted as an efficacious strategy for persuasion (Dillard & Nabi, 2006; Nabi, 2003), few studies have directly explored their potential in communicating climate change; however, accumulating evidence suggests that emotions may play an unappreciated role in this domain. First, in relation to the climate-change-as-distant issue, literature in cognitive psychology has shown that increased emotional intensity of an event/object can reduce its perceived distance (Cole, Balcetis, & Dunning, 2013; Van Boven, Kane, McGraw, & Dale, 2010). Second, with regards to the deep-seated political polarization on climate change, previous psychology and communication research suggests that emotions can affect policy preferences that are typically strongly linked to political ideology (Kühne & Schemer, 2015; Small & Lerner, 2008). Although many of these studies investigated effects of emotions rather than emotional appeals per se, we examined whether emotions induced through an emotional appeal may have similar effects. Most relevant to this research are a small but growing number of studies linking emotions to climate change policy support. In an early study investigating factors accounting for the American public's support for climate policy, affective responses to climate change emerged as a strong predictor (Leiserowitz, 2006). A more recent study extended this work and found that discrete emotions such as worry, interest, and hope explained more variance in climate policy preferences than did a wide range of socio-demographic variables, including political ideology and cultural worldviews (Smith & Leiserowitz, 2014). Apart from these cross-sectional survey studies, emotions elicited in randomized controlled experiments have also been shown to influence support for climate policy, suggesting a causal role of emotions in the processing of climate information. For instance, Lu and Schuldt (2015) explored how incidental emotions might influence the way that audiences reacted to climate change information. Results revealed that climate policy preferences were contingent on the particular emotion (namely, guilt or anger) that people were induced to feel before making the decisiondin addition to other factors including political partisanship and the framed social distance of climate change impacts. Taken together, while relatively little is known regarding the role played by discrete emotionsdand by extension, persuasive messaging that utilizes emotional appealsdin climate policy support, the current literature hints at the possible strengths of this particular framing strategy. 1.1. Compassion and motivation Existing climate change communication campaigns have predominantly featured information that is likely to induce negative emotions, such as fear, guilt, and shame (Markowitz & Shariff, 2012). However, research has shown that overly dire messages about the consequences of climate change can potentially


backfire, by increasing skepticism concerning the existence of climate change (Feinberg & Willer, 2011). This finding is consistent with research in other domains indicating that negative emotional appeals can sometimes elicit unintended consequences (Nabi, 2015; Williams, 2011). Thus, scholars are increasingly advocating more attention to positively valenced emotions (e.g., Markowitz & Shariff, 2012), and in this vein, Chadwick (2015) found evidence that hope appeals can increase the perceived effectiveness (e.g., whether the message is convincing) of climate change messages. While it has received less attention than other emotions (notably, fear) as an influence tool in the persuasion literature, the positive emotion of compassion is especially relevant to the context of climate change communication. In this paper, we follow discrete emotion theories and adopt the view that compassion is an emotion elicited from witnessing another's suffering that subsequently generates a desire within the perceiver to help alleviate that suffering (DeSteno, 2015; Goetz, Keltner, & Simon-Thomas, 2010). Because of its approach tendency, compassion has the potential to enhance social engagement with others and reduce psychological distance (Oveis, Horberg, & Keltner, 2010), the latter of which may be essential for reducing the public's tendency to construe climate change in psychologically distant terms (Weber, 2010). More importantly, compassion is a prosocial emotion that is linked to increased care and concern for others, decreased attention to one's own needs, and a motivation to aid another person for their own sake (Goetz et al., 2010). Numerous studies have indeed shown that the experience of compassion stimulates helping behaviors even at a personal cost to the helper (e.g., Condon & DeSteno, 2011; Leiberg, Klimecki, & Singer, 2011). This prosocial feature of compassion is readily applicable to climate change communication because in order to mitigate negative effects of climate change, individuals need to be willing to make personal sacrifices for the sake of others (e.g., other species, people in other countries, future generations, etc.). These “others” are oftentimes depicted as victims of climate change, which will likely induce compassion among the audiences who encounter such information. While empirical studies of climate change message effects abound, compassion has rarely been the primary focus in this line of research; it is therefore unknown whether compassion can exert beneficial effects in climate change communication. In particular, because we are interested in the implications of compassion appeals for climate change communication, our study does not examine measures that can help the suffering victims directlydfor instance, intentions to donate. Instead, we focus on measures that can help prevent the future occurrence of similar tragedies, namely, support for government actions aimed at mitigating climate change. In so doing, we also explore whether effects of compassion can extend beyond the provision of immediate help to shape support for societal-level interventions that, ultimately, would reduce the likelihood of similar tragedies in the future. Importantly, beyond examining the potential for main effects of compassion on climate-related policy preferences, we also seek to examine the underlying mechanism for the hypothesized effect. We suggest three factors that may serve as mediators of compassion effects in the present context. The first one is the subjective feeling of compassion. If claims are to be made about the effects of compassion appeals on policy support, subjective feelings of compassion should serve as the mediator between the appeal and the outcome such that any effect on policy support is contingent on the extent to which the compassion appeal evoked the target emotion among audience members. The second factor is perceived


H. Lu, J.P. Schuldt / Journal of Environmental Psychology 45 (2016) 192e200

similarity with the suffering other. Research has shown that increased compassion leads to increased perceived self-other similarity (Oveis et al., 2010). If compassion appeals are to raise public support for climate policy, this effect may be more likely among audience members who feel more connected or similar to the suffering other; this abridged social distance may, in turn, motivate people to support government actions that can help alleviate the suffering. The last factor we highlight is the perception that the suffering other can, in fact, be helped (i.e., action efficacy). The feeling of compassion motivates moral judgments and is sensitive to harm-related concerns such as responsibility and vulnerability (Goetz et al., 2010)dthus, the stronger the belief that there are ways to aid the suffering other, the more likely it is that people who feel compassionate will offer help. In the context of climate change, if a tragedy is believed to be caused by human activities (as compared to nature), support for government actions to prevent similar tragedies may be expected to increase. 2. Motivated reasoning and climate change A number of recent studies have investigated how political ideology influences public opinion about climate change (e.g., Bohr, 2014; Hamilton, Hartter, Lemcke-Stampone, Moore, & Safford, 2015; Leiserowitz, Maibach, Roser-Renouf, Feinberg, & Rosenthal, 2014; Schuldt, Roh, & Schwarz, 2015). The general pattern found from this line of research is a large divide between Democrats and Republicans with regards to basic climate beliefs and support for climate mitigation policies. That is, most Democrats and liberals believe that anthropogenic forces have caused and continue to exacerbate climate change, and furthermore, express greater support for government actions to address the issue; by comparison, Republicans and conservatives are consistently less likely to espouse these beliefs and opinions. This disagreement largely reflects the political and ideological divisions between the two parties that have persisted over the past two decades (Krosnick, Holbrook, & Visser, 2000; McCright & Dunlap, 2011). Increasingly, scholars have interpreted such findings as reflecting motivated reasoning on the part of individuals who are predisposed to process climate-related information in ways that reinforce their preexisting views (Kunda, 1990). In practice, the tendency toward biased information processing may be so pronounced that exposure to the same information can engender opposite effects across climate believers and climate skeptics. Accumulating evidence has confirmed that cognitive framing effects can be readily eclipsed by ideological commitments among those at opposite ends of the political spectrum (e.g., Hart & Nisbet, 2012). Some scholars have therefore suggested that attempts to persuade strong partisans may be an ineffective and inefficient strategy for heightening support for mitigation policies among the general public (Carrico, Truelove, Vandenbergh, & Dana, 2015). However, a growing body of work has shown that situational cues (e.g., weather, incidental emotions) can influence strong partisans' beliefs about climate change (Egan & Mullin, 2012; Hamilton & Stampone, 2013; Lewandowski, Ciarocco, & Gately, 2012; Li, Johnson, & Zaval, 2011; Lu & Schuldt, 2015; Schuldt & Roh, 2014). Since the subjective feeling of compassion elicited by compassion appeals may serve as a situational cue, our study attempts to examine if such appeals are able to overcome stalwart resistance from conservatives, who may hold beliefs against climate change that are highly crystallized. Additionally, because some research indicates that making climate change cues salient in messaging (e.g., by explicitly linking a natural disaster to climate

change) can further polarize attitudes and behavioral intentions between climate believers and skeptics (Chapman & Lickel, 2016), we also explore whether increased compassion can override the salience of climate change cues in our study. 3. Methods 3.1. Participants Participants were 400 adults (186 females, 214 males; mean age (years) ¼ 35.03, SD ¼ 12.20; 312 self-identified Whites, 20 Blacks, 29 Asians, and 23 Hispanics) recruited online from around the United States via Amazon's Mechanical Turk (see Paolacci & Chandler, 2014). Of particular interest, the sample's political ideology leaned liberal, on average (M ¼ 2.52, SD ¼ 1.16; 5-point scale from 1 ¼ very liberal to 5 ¼ very conservative). All participants received modest monetary compensation. Each participant was randomly assigned to one of four experimental conditions as part of a 2 (compassion: high or low)  2 (climate change cue: present or absent) betweensubjects factorial design. 3.2. Procedure and materials On the first webpage they encountered, participants learned that they were going to participate in a study focusing on how people evaluate stories in the media. After providing informed consent, they were randomly assigned to one of two compassion conditions. In the high-compassion condition, participants read a compassion-promoting instruction detailing the manner in which they should read the news article on the following page that was modeled on previous studies (cf. Batson, Chang, Orr, & Rowland, 2002; Pfattheicher, Sassenrath, & Schindler, 2015), specifically, “While you are reading the article, try to imagine how the child in the picture feels about what has happened and how it has affected her life. Try to feel the full impact of what she has been through and how she feels as a result. You can let yourself be guided by your feelings.” By contrast, in the low-compassion condition, the instruction stated, “While you are reading the article, try to take an objective perspective toward what is described. Try not to get caught up in how the child in the picture feels. Just remain objective and detached.” After these instructions, participants proceeded to the next page which displayed a fictitious news article ostensibly obtained from a mainstream news website. This 180-word article described “the worst drought in half a century” to afflict East Africa and gave a general description of its impacts on tens of thousands of families in the region (Appendix A). Particularly, to avoid psychic numbing (Slovic, 2007), this article featured a two-year-old girl suffering from severe malnutrition and showed a picture of her laying in her mother's arm and looking directly at the readers. There were two versions of the article. One version made explicit connections between the drought and climate change, and the other did not. For instance, the title of the climate-change-cue-present article was “Worst drought in 60 years grips Africa, linked to climate change,” whereas the title of the climate-change-cue-absent article was simply “Worst drought in 60 years grips Africa.” Because the manipulation for inducing high versus low compassion was adapted from one originally used for audio stories (e.g., Batson et al., 1997), and that such adaptations are not always successful in generating different levels of compassion for textbased stories (e.g., Swim & Bloodhart, 2015), we added a writing task after participants had read the news article for purposes of

H. Lu, J.P. Schuldt / Journal of Environmental Psychology 45 (2016) 192e200


Fig. 1. Parallel multiple mediator model with self-reported compassion and belief in anthropogenic drought as parallel mediators. Note. *p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.

maintaining the salience of the manipulation. In the highcompassion condition, participants were told to “briefly summarize what happened in the news article, paying particular attention to what the child may be feeling.” In the low-compassion condition, participants were asked to “briefly summarize what happened in the news article.” After the writing task, participants filled out a questionnaire assessing various variables detailed in the following section. 3.3. Measures1 3.3.1. Emotions Participants completed a measure of emotions that required them to indicate, on 7-point scales, the extent to which they were feeling each of a listed set of emotions while reading the news article (1 ¼ none to 7 ¼ a lot). This randomized list of emotions included a compassion scale (Batson, 1987) and a short Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS) scale (Mackinnon et al., 1999). The compassion scale included five items: compassionate, sympathetic, softhearted, tender, and moved (a ¼ .93; M ¼ 4.67, SD ¼ 1.67). The short PANAS scale contained ten items: inspired, alert, excited, enthusiastic, determined, afraid, upset, nervous, scared, and distressed (Positive Affect scale: a ¼ .76, M ¼ 2.66, SD ¼ 1.17; Negative Affect scale: a ¼ .89, M ¼ 2.96, SD ¼ 1.52). 3.3.2. Support for government actions Participants indicated on an 11-point scale to what extent they thought the government should take actions to address climate change (0 ¼ do nothing at all to 10 ¼ do everything they can; M ¼ 7.70, SD ¼ 2.73; adapted from Arbuckle, Morton, & Hobbs, 2015). 3.3.3. Perceived similarity Participants completed the Inclusion of Other in Self (IOS) scale (Aron, Aron, & Smollan, 1992). Specifically, they chose the picture that best described their felt relationship to the child in the article from seven pictures comprised of two circles e one symbolizing the participant and one symbolizing the child e representing differential degrees of overlap (1 ¼ most distant to 7 ¼ closest; M ¼ 2.78, SD ¼ 1.66). 3.3.4. Belief in anthropogenic drought Participants indicated on a 7-point scale to what extent they thought the drought mentioned in the article was caused by human

1 We also measured pro-environmental behavioral intentions. Participants rated on 7-point scales how willing they were to adopt 9 behaviors, such as switching to florescent light bulbs and participating in recycling, in the next six months (a ¼ .86, M ¼ 2.96, SD ¼ 1.52). However, no main or interaction effects of the experimental conditions were found for this outcome variable. We speculate that, as compared to government actions, individual-level behavioral changes might be perceived as less effective for helping climate change victims in the future.

actions (1 ¼ not at all to 7 ¼ very much so; M ¼ 4.29, SD ¼ 1.86). 3.3.5. Manipulation check for climate change cues Participants indicated on a 7-point scale to what extent they thought the drought mentioned in the article was linked to climate change (1 ¼ not at all to 7 ¼ very much so; M ¼ 4.96, SD ¼ 1.73). 4. Results 4.1. Manipulation checks We performed two-way ANOVAs featuring terms for the compassion condition (high or low), climate change cue condition (present or absent), and their interaction term as the independent variables, and self-reported compassion, positive affect, negative affect, and belief in the connection between the drought and climate change, as the dependent variables, respectively. Our analyses suggested that the compassion induction was successful, such that the high-compassion condition (M ¼ 5.04, SD ¼ 1.61) elicited more compassion than the low-compassion condition (M ¼ 4.34, SD ¼ 1.65), F(1, 396) ¼ 17.98, p < .001, h2 ¼ .04. In contrast, there was no significant difference between the high-compassion (M ¼ 2.77, SD ¼ 1.22) and low-compassion (M ¼ 2.57, SD ¼ 1.13) conditions in positive affect, F(1, 396) ¼ 3.03, ns, nor was there any difference in negative affect between conditions (Mhigh ¼ 3.04, SDhigh ¼ 1.58; Mlow ¼ 2.88, SDlow ¼ 1.46), F(1, 396) ¼ 1.09, ns. Turning to our manipulation of the climate change cue (i.e., present or absent), we found that the climate-change-cue-present condition led to significantly stronger belief that the drought was linked to climate change (M ¼ 5.13, SD ¼ 1.66) compared to the climate-change-cue-absent condition (M ¼ 4.77, SD ¼ 1.78), F(1, 396) ¼ 4.38, p < .05, h2 ¼ .01. Therefore, the manipulation of the climate change cue was also successful. 4.2. Tests of main dependent variables We performed a series of two-way ANOVAs featuring terms for compassion condition (high or low), climate change cue condition (present or absent), and their interaction term as the independent variables, and support for government actions, perceived similarity, and belief in anthropogenic drought, as the dependent variables, respectively. Consistent with the main hypothesis, results revealed a main effect of compassion condition on support for government actions to address climate change, F(1, 396) ¼ 6.30, p < .05, h2 ¼ .02, such that the high-compassion condition led to more support for government actions (M ¼ 8.06, SD ¼ 2.53) than did the lowcompassion condition (M ¼ 7.38, SD ¼ 2.86). No other main or interaction effects emerged for support for government actions, and moreover, we observed no significant main or interaction


H. Lu, J.P. Schuldt / Journal of Environmental Psychology 45 (2016) 192e200

effects on the perceived similarity measure. Turning to belief in anthropogenic drought, a main effect of compassion condition was observed, F(1, 396) ¼ 4.96, p < .05, h2 ¼ .01, such that the highcompassion condition (M ¼ 4.51, SD ¼ 1.85) resulted in stronger belief in anthropogenic drought than did the low-compassion condition (M ¼ 4.10, SD ¼ 1.85). No other main or interaction effects were observed. 4.3. Tests of mediation effects Because we observed a main effect of compassion condition on support for government actions, self-reported compassion, and belief in anthropogenic drought, we conducted follow-up analyses testing whether self-reported (felt) compassion and belief in anthropogenic drought might mediate the effect of compassion condition on support for government actions. We used PROCESS Model 4 from Hayes (2013), with the independent variable being the compassion condition (high ¼ .5, low ¼ .5), with the climate change cue condition (present ¼ .5, absent ¼ .5) and their interaction term as the covariates; selfreported compassion and belief in anthropogenic drought being the simultaneous mediators; and support for government actions being the dependent variable (5000 bootstrap resamples, 95% bias corrected confidence interval)2. Results revealed that both self-reported compassion and belief in anthropogenic drought emerged as significant mediatorsdthat is, the 95% confidence intervals for the indirect effects of the compassion condition did not include zero (Bcompassion ¼ .16, 95% CI:.05 to .33; Bbelief ¼ .27, 95% CI: .05 to .52) and the main effect of compassion condition was no longer significant after controlling for self-reported compassion and belief in anthropogenic drought (B ¼ .26, t(394) ¼ 1.04, ns; Fig. 1). Thus, it appears that the highcompassion (vs. low-compassion) condition increased selfreported compassion and belief in anthropogenic drought, both of which, in turn, positively influenced support for government actions to address climate change. 4.4. Tests of moderating effects of political ideology Recall that we were also interested in the potential moderating role of political ideology on support for government actions. To test this possibility, we used a multiple regression model in which support for government actions was regressed on compassion condition, climate change cue condition, and political ideology (mean-centered), and all interaction terms. While no significant three-way interaction emerged, there was a significant two-way interaction between compassion condition and political ideology, B ¼ .42, t(392) ¼ 2.06, p < .05, h2 ¼ .01 (Fig. 2). More specifically, the high-compassion condition was more effective than the lowcompassion condition in increasing support for government actions among moderates (M), (Mhigh ¼ 8.08, Mlow ¼ 7.35, B ¼ .72, t(392) ¼ 3.12, p < .01) and conservatives (Mþ1SD), (Mhigh ¼ 6.90, Mlow ¼ 5.70, B ¼ 1.20, t(392) ¼ 3.67, p < .001). In contrast, there was

2 This was essentially a parallel multiple mediator model (Hayes, 2013), which we chose because of its several advantages over separate simple mediation models (see Ding, Ng, & Li, 2014; Preacher & Hayes, 2008a; 2008b). We tested self-reported compassion and belief in anthropogenic drought in separate simple mediation models and found that both variables served as full mediators between the main effect of compassion conditions and support for government actions. Additionally, we also tested whether the two variables would fit in a serial multiple mediator model and found that the partial correlation between self-reported compassion and belief in anthropogenic drought was not significant after controlling for condition (Hayes, 2013), suggesting that the parallel mediation model we report is the more appropriate model.

Fig. 2. Graph depicting the effect of compassion condition on support for government actions to address climate change, by political ideology (conservatives (Mþ1SD), moderates (M), liberals (M1SD)). Error bars represent standard errors of the mean.

no difference between high- and low-compassion conditions for liberals (M1SD), (Mhigh ¼ 9.26, Mlow ¼ 9.01, B ¼ .24, t(392) ¼ .74, ns)3. 5. Discussion The lack of broad public support for climate mitigation policy hampers efforts to address climate change efficiently and effectively (Shwom, Bidwell, Dan, & Dietz, 2010). This study aligns with recent efforts in various disciplines, such as psychology and communication, that attempt to increase public support through framing the issue in ways that are engaging and accessible for the public (Markowitz & Shariff, 2012). Importantly, this study echoes prior calls for emphasizing the role of emotions in climate change decision-making research (Roeser, 2012), and specifically, investigates the effects of compassion as an emotional frame in increasing support for government actions among the general public and across the spectrum of the political ideology, a topic that has received very limited attention in the climate change communication literature, to date. Our experiment provides initial evidence for the efficacy of compassion appeals, as we observed stronger support for government actions under conditions of high versus low compassion. On the one hand, this result was not surprising given that a number of studies have uncovered the prosocial role that compassion plays in motivating individuals to alleviate others' suffering (Goetz et al., 2010). On the other hand, the fact that increased compassion positively influenced our primary outcome variable, support for government actions to address climate change, is notable. In contrast to many previous studies on the effects of compassion, we opted not to use a measure to assess direct aiding behaviors, such as donation. While it is possible that such measures would show

3 We also examined whether the mediating roles of self-reported compassion and belief in anthropogenic drought were themselves contingent on political ideology (i.e., moderated mediation; Muller, Judd, & Yzerbyt, 2005; Hayes, 2015). Significant results emerged from PROCESS Model 15 (10,000 bootstrap resamples, 95% bias corrected confidence interval) from Hayes (2013), which tests for moderation on mediator / outcome path, such that the indirect effect through self-reported compassion was significant for moderates and conservatives (bootstrap CIs: .03 to .27, and .10 to .56, respectively) whereas the indirect effect through belief in anthropogenic drought was significant for liberals, moderates, and conservatives alike (bootstrap CIs: .01 to .23, .03 to .37, and .04 to .58, respectively).

H. Lu, J.P. Schuldt / Journal of Environmental Psychology 45 (2016) 192e200

stronger effects of compassion, our primary focus on support for climate change mitigation policy directly led us to employ measures that might not provide immediate help to victims but that could reasonably be expected to prevent similar tragedies from happening in the future. Thus, our findings suggest that effects of compassion are not limited to increasing support for actions that provide immediate help to alleviate another person's suffering. Future work should continue to explore other outcome measures and boundary conditions of compassion effects in climate change communication. Moreover, we considered three possible routes through which compassion might influence support for government actions, and found that the present effect could be fully accounted for by greater self-reported compassion and belief in the anthropogenic cause of the disaster elicited by the high compassion appeal. While the former may be self-evident, the latter may benefit from more explanation. Following theorists who contend that emotions are a primary driver of human actions (Niedenthal, Krauth-Gruber, & Ric, 2006), we assume that increased compassion evoked a desire to help prevent similar situations in the future. The more likely individuals are to think that the drought was caused by human activities, the more preventable they may think similar droughts will be, which may engender greater support for government actions on climate change as an effective prevention approachdperhaps one of many. Future research is needed to systematically examine this presumed cognitive pathway and the role that different emotions may play in shaping these judgments. A primary objective of this study is to investigate if increased compassion can produce similar impacts on climate change policy support among individuals with disparate political ideologies. Our results suggest that increased compassion is effective for heightening support among moderates and conservatives, but less so among liberals. This finding is consistent with other work reporting that moderates' and conservatives' beliefs about climate change are more likely to be affected by situational and contextual factors, including other types of framing, because liberals may have developed strong pro-climate change beliefs that may be difficult to bolster (e.g., Hamilton & Stampone, 2013; Schuldt et al. 2011; 2015). As the divide between liberals and conservatives on climate change issues widens, compassion, as illustrated by our study, can potentially help to bridge the well-known partisan divide in this domain. While this study adds to the climate change communication literature by presenting evidence for a causal link between compassion and support for government actions to address climate change, some limitations should be noted. First, whereas participants in the present experiment were recruited from an online participant pool, psychological studies involving induced emotions are more typically carried out in laboratory settings, thus affording greater control. On the other hand, it should be noted that this online pool provided a larger and more diverse sample than those traditionally recruited in lab experiments (Buhrmester, Kwang, & Gosling, 2011). In addition, studies have shown that the quality of data obtained from Amazon Mechanical Turk workers is comparable to data from other sources (e.g., Bartneck, Duenser, Moltchanova, & Zawieska, 2015; Crump, McDonnell, & Gureckis, 2013), and the between-subjects experimental design of this online study may also help limit effects of environmental factors in favor of the focal independent variables (Paolacci & Chandler, 2014).


Second, while we employed a common method for inducing compassion (Batson et al., 2002), it is possible that the difference we found between the high-compassion and low-compassion conditions might also be explained by differential attention across conditions, with the high-compassion manipulation promoting increased attention to information contained in the fictitious news article. Although our current design cannot fully rule out this alternative explanation, we would note that further analyses revealed no difference between compassion conditions in the time spent reading the news article, nor did the conditions generate differential word lengths on the writing tasks. More importantly, participants in the high-compassion condition were no more likely to notice the climate change cue in the condition where it was present (as indicated by participants' reported belief that the drought was caused by climate change). Thus, we believe it is unlikely that differential attention across conditions provides a satisfactory alternative explanation for the observed effects. Third, we note some measurement limitations and related considerations for future work. Although the hypothesized effect of compassion condition on perceived similarity to the climate change victim did not emergedthus challenging a prominent assumption in the emotion literature on compassiondthis lack of an effect may be partly attributable to some idiosyncratic features of the present design. For instance, although we employed the IOS scale (Aron et al., 1992) for its ease of comprehension and high reliability, it is arguably a better measure of subjective relationship closeness than €chter, Starmer, & Tufano, of perceived similarity, per se (see Ga 2015). Future work may employ other, more direct measures of perceived similarity (e.g., the single-item measure from Oveis et al., 2010), to examine whether the expected effect would emerge with alternative measures. Moreover, the particular characteristics of the climate victim portrayed in our fictional news article (an impoverished child, stricken by malnutrition, living in East Africa) may have elicited a great deal of psychological distance (e.g., social and spatial distance; Trope & Liberman, 2010) among our predominately adult, White U.S. sampledperhaps too much dissimilarity to overcome with this compassion induction. Moreover, although we examined the mediating role of belief in anthropogenic drought as a proxy for perceived efficacy of government actions, we acknowledge that this is a topically relevant but rather indirect means for doing so. Future work may thus benefit from including measures that more directly assess people's beliefs about which government actions are most likely to prevent similar humanitarian disasters from occurring in the future, and to what extent. Finally, while we found significant effects of the compassion appeal, these findings should be interpreted with caution as they represent relatively small effects. To conclude, by demonstrating that the influence of compassion extends beyond increasing the motivation to act in ways that alleviate immediate suffering, the present work underscores its previously overlooked role in contributing to citizens' policy support regarding climate change mitigation. Notably, since suffering victims are often featured in persuasive messaging about climate change impacts, the present study invites climate change communicators to more carefully consider whether and how to use compassionda positive emotion or “emotional carrot,” rather than negative emotions or “emotional sticks”dto connect and engage traditionally skeptical audiences.


Appendix A Climate change cue present message

H. Lu, J.P. Schuldt / Journal of Environmental Psychology 45 (2016) 192e200

H. Lu, J.P. Schuldt / Journal of Environmental Psychology 45 (2016) 192e200


Climate change cue absent message

References Arbuckle, J. G., Morton, L. W., & Hobbs, J. (2015). Understanding farmer perspectives on climate change adaptation and mitigation: the roles of trust in sources of climate information, climate change beliefs, and perceived risk. Environment and Behavior, 47, 205e234. Aron, A., Aron, E. N., & Smollan, D. (1992). Inclusion of other in the self scale and the structure of interpersonal closeness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63, 596e612. Bartneck, C., Duenser, A., Moltchanova, E., & Zawieska, K. (2015). Comparing the similarity of responses received from studies in Amazon's mechanical turk to studies conducted online and with direct recruitment. PLoS One, 10, e0121595. Batson, C. D. (1987). Prosocial motivation: is it ever truly altruistic?. In L. Berkowitz

(Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 20, pp. 65e122) New York, NY: Academic Press. Batson, C. D., Chang, J., Orr, R., & Rowland, J. (2002). Empathy, attitudes, and action: can feeling for a member of a stigmatized group motivate one to help the group? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28, 1656e1666. Batson, C. D., Sager, K., Garst, E., Kang, M., Rubchinsky, K., & Dawson, K. (1997). Is empathy-induced helping due to selfeother merging? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 495e509. Bliuc, A. M., McGarty, C., Thomas, E. F., Lala, G., Berndsen, M., & Misajon, R. (2015). Public division about climate change rooted in conflicting socio-political identities. Nature Climate Change, 5, 226e229. Bohr, J. (2014). Public views on the dangers and importance of climate change: predicting climate change beliefs in the United States through income


H. Lu, J.P. Schuldt / Journal of Environmental Psychology 45 (2016) 192e200

moderated by party identification. Climatic Change, 126, 217e227. Buhrmester, M., Kwang, T., & Gosling, S. D. (2011). Amazon's mechanical turk: a new source of inexpensive, yet high-quality, data? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6, 3e5. Carrico, A. R., Truelove, H. B., Vandenbergh, M. P., & Dana, D. (2015). Does learning about climate change adaptation change support for mitigation? Journal of Environmental Psychology, 41, 19e29. Chadwick, A. E. (2015). Toward a theory of persuasive hope: effects of cognitive appraisals, hope appeals, and hope in the context of climate change. Health Communication, 30(6), 598e611. Chapman, D. A., & Lickel, B. (2016). Climate change and disasters: how framing affects justifications for giving or withholding aid to disaster victims. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 7, 13e20. Cole, S., Balcetis, E., & Dunning, D. (2013). Affective signals of threat increase perceived proximity. Psychological Science, 24, 34e40. Condon, P., & DeSteno, D. (2011). Compassion for one reduces punishment for another. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 47, 698e701. Crump, M. J. C., McDonnell, J. V., & Gureckis, T. M. (2013). Evaluating Amazon's mechanical turk as a tool for experimental behavioral research. PLoS One, 8, e57410. DeSteno, D. (2015). Compassion and altruism: how our minds determine who is worthy of help. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 3, 80e83. Dillard, J. P., & Nabi, R. L. (2006). The persuasive influence of emotion in cancer prevention and detection messages. Journal of Communication, 56, S123eS139. Ding, Z., Ng, F., & Li, J. (2014). A parallel multiple mediator model of knowledge sharing in architectural design project teams. International Journal of Project Management, 32, 54e65. Drews, S., & van den Bergh, J. C. (2015). What explains public support for climate policies? A review of empirical and experimental studies. Climate Policy. http:// Advanced online publication. Egan, P. J., & Mullin, M. (2012). Turning personal experience into political attitudes: the effect of local weather on Americans' perceptions about global warming. The Journal of Politics, 74, 796e809. Feinberg, M., & Willer, R. (2011). Apocalypse soon? Dire messages reduce belief in global warming by contradicting just-world beliefs. Psychological Science, 22, 34e38. €chter, S., Starmer, C., & Tufano, F. (2015). Measuring the closeness of relationGa ships: a comprehensive evaluation of the 'Inclusion of the Other in the Self' scale. PLoS One, 10(6), e0129478. Goetz, J. L., Keltner, D., & Simon-Thomas, E. (2010). Compassion: an evolutionary analysis and empirical review. Psychological Bulletin, 136, 351e374. Hamilton, L. C., Hartter, J., Lemcke-Stampone, M., Moore, D. W., & Safford, T. G. (2015). Tracking public beliefs about anthropogenic climate change. PLoS One, 10(9), e0138208. Hamilton, L. C., & Stampone, M. D. (2013). Blowin’ in the wind: short-term weather and belief in anthropogenic climate change. Weather, Climate and Society, 5, 112e119. Hart, P. S., & Nisbet, E. C. (2012). Boomerang effects in science communication: how motivated reasoning and identity cues amplify opinion polarization about climate mitigation policies. Communication Research, 39, 701e723. Hayes, A. F. (2013). An introduction to mediation, moderation, and conditional process analysis. New York: The Guilford Press. Hayes, A. F. (2015). An index and test of linear moderated mediation. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 50, 1e22. Jang, S. M. (2013). Framing responsibility in climate change discourse: ethnocentric attribution bias, perceived causes, and policy attitudes. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 36, 27e36. Kahan, D. M., Jenkins-Smith, H., & Braman, D. (2011). Cultural cognition of scientific consensus. Journal of Risk Research, 14, 147e174. Krosnick, J. A., Holbrook, A. L., & Visser, P. S. (2000). The impact of the fall 1997 debate about global warming on American public opinion. Public Understanding of Science, 9, 239e260. Kühne, R., & Schemer, C. (2015). The emotional effects of news frames on information processing and opinion formation. Communication Research, 42, 387e407. Kunda, Z. (1990). The case for motivated reasoning. Psychological Bulletin, 108, 480e498. Leiberg, S., Klimecki, O., & Singer, T. (2011). Short-term compassion training increases prosocial behavior in a newly developed prosocial game. PLoS One, 6, e17798. Leiserowitz, A. (2006). Climate change risk perception and policy preferences: the role of affect, imagery, and values. Climatic Change, 77, 45e72. Leiserowitz, A., Maibach, E., Roser-Renouf, C., Feinberg, G., & Rosenthal, S. (2014). Politics & global warming, Spring 2014. New Haven, CT: Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. Leiserowitz, A., Maibach, E., Roser-Renouf, C., Feinberg, G., & Rosenthal, S. (2015). Climate change in the American mind: March, 2015. Yale University and George Mason University. New Haven, CT: Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. Lewandowski, G. W., Jr., Ciarocco, N. J., & Gately, E. L. (2012). The effect of embodied temperature on perceptions of global warming. Current Psychology, 31, 318e324. Li, Y., Johnson, E. J., & Zaval, L. (2011). Local warming daily temperature change influences belief in global warming. Psychological Science, 22, 454e459. Lu, H., & Schuldt, J. P. (2015). Exploring the role of incidental emotions in support for climate change policy. Climatic Change, 131, 719e726. Mackinnon, A., Jorm, A. F., Christensen, H., Korten, A. E., Jacomb, P. A., & Rodgers, B. (1999). A short form of the positive and negative affect schedule: evaluation of factorial validity and invariance across demographic variables in a community sample. Personality and Individual Differences, 27, 405e416.

Markowitz, E. M., & Shariff, A. F. (2012). Climate change and moral judgement. Nature Climate Change, 2, 243e247. McCright, A. M., & Dunlap, R. E. (2011). The politicization of climate change and polarization in the American public's views of global warming, 2001e2010. The Sociological Quarterly, 52, 155e194. Moser, S. C. (2010). Communicating climate change: history, challenges, process and future directions. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 1, 31e53. Muller, D., Judd, C. M., & Yzerbyt, V. Y. (2005). When moderation is mediated and mediation is moderated. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89, 852e863. Nabi, R. L. (2003). Exploring the framing effects of emotion do discrete emotions differentially influence information accessibility, information seeking, and policy preference? Communication Research, 30, 224e247. Nabi, R. (2015). Emotional flow in persuasive health messages. Health Communication, 30, 114e124. Newell, Ben, & Pitman, Andrew (2010). The psychology of global warming: improving the fit between the science and the message. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 91, 1003e1014. Niedenthal, P. M., Krauth-Gruber, S., & Ric, F. (2006). Psychology of emotion: Interpersonal, experiential, and cognitive approaches. New York, NY: Psychology Press. Nisbet, E. C., Hart, P. S., Myers, T., & Ellithorpe, M. (2013). Attitude change in competitive framing environments? Open-/closed-mindedness, framing effects, and climate change. Journal of Communication, 63, 766e785. Oveis, C., Horberg, E. J., & Keltner, D. (2010). Compassion, pride, and social intuitions of self-other similarity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98, 618e630. Paolacci, G., & Chandler, J. (2014). Inside the turk: understanding mechanical turk as a participant pool. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 23, 184e188. Pearson, A. R., & Schuldt, J. P. (2014). Facing the diversity crisis in climate science. Nature Climate Change, 4, 1039e1042. Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. (2015a). Public's policy priorities reflect changing conditions at home and abroad. Retrieved from http://www. Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. (2015b). Ideological divide over global warming as wide as ever. Retrieved from Pfattheicher, S., Sassenrath, C., & Schindler, S. (2015). Feelings for the suffering of others and the environment compassion fosters proenvironmental tendencies. Environment and Behavior. Advanced online publication. Preacher, K. J., & Hayes, A. F. (2008a). Asymptotic and resampling strategies for assessing and comparing indirect effects in multiple mediator models. Behavior Research Methods, 40, 879e891. Preacher, K. J., & Hayes, A. F. (2008b). Contemporary approaches to assessing mediation in communication research. In A. F. Hayes, M. D. Slater, & L. B. Snyder (Eds.), The sage sourcebook of advanced data analysis methods for communication research (pp. 13e54). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Roeser, S. (2012). Risk communication, public engagement, and climate change: a role for emotions. Risk Analysis, 32, 1033e1040. Schuldt, J. P., Konrath, S. H., & Schwarz, N. (2011). “Global warming” or “climate change”?: whether the planet is warming depends on question wording. Public Opinion Quarterly, 75, 115e124. Schuldt, J. P., & Roh, S. (2014). Of accessibility and applicability: how heat-related cues affect belief in “global warming” versus “climate change.” Social Cognition, 32, 217e238. Schuldt, J. P., Roh, S., & Schwarz, N. (2015). Questionnaire design effects in climate change surveys: implications for the partisan divide. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 658, 67e85. Shwom, R., Bidwell, D., Dan, A., & Dietz, T. (2010). Understanding US public support for domestic climate change policies. Global Environmental Change, 20, 472e482. Slovic, P. (2007). “If I look at the mass I will never act”: psychic numbing and genocide. Judgment and Decision Making, 2, 79e95. Small, D. A., & Lerner, J. S. (2008). Emotional policy: personal sadness and anger shape judgments about a welfare case. Political Psychology, 29, 149e168. Smith, N., & Leiserowitz, A. (2014). The role of emotion in global warming policy support and opposition. Risk Analysis, 34, 937e948. Spence, A., Poortinga, W., & Pidgeon, N. (2012). The psychological distance of climate change. Risk Analysis, 32, 957e972. Swim, J. K., & Bloodhart, B. (2015). portraying the perils to polar bears: the role of empathic and objective perspective-taking toward animals in climate change communication. Environmental Communication, 9, 446e468. Trope, Y., & Liberman, N. (2010). Construal-level theory of psychological distance. Psychological Review, 117, 440e463. Van Boven, L., Kane, J., McGraw, A. P., & Dale, J. (2010). Feeling close: emotional intensity reduces perceived psychological distance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98, 872e885. Weber, E. U. (2010). What shapes perceptions of climate change? Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 1, 332e342. Van der Linden, S., Maibach, E., & Leiserowitz, A. (2015). How to improve public engagement with climate change: five “best practice” insights from psychological science. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10, 758e763. Wiest, S. L., Raymond, L., & Clawson, R. A. (2015). Framing, partisan predispositions, and public opinion on climate change. Global Environmental Change, 31, 187e198. Williams, K. C. (2011). Improving fear appeal ethics. Journal of Academic and Business Ethics, 1e24.

Suggest Documents