by Sarah Whitney
Adam Corner, Ezra Markowitz, and Nick Pidgeon (2014) analyze various works of research from philosophical, psychological, and anthropological fields to determine that those with self-transcendent values are most likely to actively engage with climate change related issues. This collection of research provides vital information for promoting sustainable practices successfully in campaigns and political policies. The authors first establish the difference between human values and the economic principle of valuation. A preference that can be influenced by the market, such as an incentive or discount, is one that is short-lived and does not influence long-term sustainable practices. The authors then state that values are a significant indication of engagement as they represent a relatively stable aspect of individuals’ personalities, preferences and behavior. Values may change slightly over the course of a lifetime but are relatively engrained as opposed to the transparency of economic values. Shalom Schwartz’s well established psychological theory divides values into four clusters: openness to change, conservative view of respecting tradition, self-transcendence, and self-enhancement. Self-transcendence is defined as focusing ones attention on others and being above one’s own ego. This includes characteristics like altruism or charitable behavior, forgiveness and loyalty. On the other hand, self-enhancement includes ambition, hunger for power, and putting oneself before others. Schwartz concepts are used as a base in further writing of DeGroot and Steg who divide values into three categories of egoistic (self minded), biospheric (environmentally minded), and altruistic (others focused). Anthropologically these same values are divided between if they align with the needs of the greater community or self. Philosophically, values are a part of ethics, which are moral principles that help us make decisions. These values predetermine if one reacts positively or negatively to environmental issues. Specifically self-transcendent and altruistic values are associated with a positive reaction to mitigation methods regarding climate change. The values we hold filter the information we are exposed to about climate change which either lead or divert us from taking action.
The authors further state that association between values and public engagement with climate change determines political polarization. Political conservatism is often associated with skepticism towards climate change, and is correlated with the ambiguous relationship between traditional values and climate change engagement. In a recent study individuals with altruistic values found the issue of climate change more threatening than those with egoistic values. Individualistic communities sided with policies that supported free markets in regards to the matter of climate change. Political parties act as filter in which individuals divide themselves based upon their correlated values. The authors argue that it is crucial in politics to know the values of your audience to better advertise the significance of an issue like climate change. They also state that advertising climate change in regards to economics is not successful as the transparent value of money is only a short-term solution. Instead, the authors recommend touching on public health and the natural beauty of nature when promoting sustainable practices in the conservative party. The authors then continue to state that advertising directly to those with self-transcendent values rather than the opposition is the most influential strategy, as those with altruistic values are more likely to switch to sustainable long-term practices.
Corner, A., Markowitz, E., Pidgeon, A., 2014. Public engagement with climate change: the role of human values. WIREs Climate Change. 5:411–422
TAGS: Adam Corner, Ezra Markowitz, Nick Pidgeon, Climate Change, Values, Self Transcendent, Altruistic, Political Polarization, Public Engagement, Psychological, Philosophical, Anthropological