Multidisciplinary Approaches

E. Sautkina; S. Seebauer; I. Schubert (I-171); L.J. Roosen (chair); J. Rees. Location: A2

People, environments and change. Open questions for travellers in time and complexity

E. Sautkina

The complexity of people-environment relationship has been in focus since the ancient times. In the 16th century BC, Heraclitus said: "No man ever steps in the same river twice" (Plato Cratylus 402a). Indeed, people, environment and their relationship seem to be in a continual transformation, the world being not a sum, but a process, a whole composed of events, changes and unique facts (Popper, 1945). Making sense and making use of complexity and change is not easy, and researchers in different areas are preoccupied by these questions (Shiell, 2013). In this paper, we will look briefly into how time and complexity challenges are addressed by the Transactional Perspective (TP) in Environmental Psychology (Altman & Rogoff, 1987; Werner et al. 2002). We will then draw comparisons with ‘complex systems’ approaches in Public Health (Hawe et al., 2009), and look at their applications. Finally, we will revisit Enactivism theory (Varela et al., 1991) and its critical analysis of some of the theories adopted by the TP. By doing this, we will initiate a discussion on new theoretical, methodological and practical prospects for TP.

Promoting pro-environmental action through online serious games: Evaluation of the game ‘Green Gang versus Captain Carbon’

S. Seebauer, E. Kouba, M. Platzer, & M. Berger

Serious games are an upcoming intervention technique to convey practical knowledge and to encourage pro-environmental action. Players are engaged in an entertaining way and may progress in the game following their interests, motivation and personal learning curve. Implementing serious games online allows to reach large audiences. The interactive game ‘Green Gang vs. Captain Carbon’ (http://game.greengang.at) targets energy saving in mobility, household energy and food consumption. It offers educational quizzes, game missions for trying out energy saving advice, and feedback on the carbon footprint. A sample of 100 adult players tested the game for several days, and completed questionnaires before and after their test period. The game successfully improves subjective knowledge and perceived behavioral control, and instigates intentions for energy saving. These effects are more pronounced among players with weak pro-environmental values, weak personal or social norms, and among players with a high carbon footprint. Serious games seem a promising avenue for environmental education. They enable access to population segments currently little interested in sustainability topics. However, to ensure attractiveness of the game, technological implementation of social interaction between players and automated integration of meter data seems necessary.

How to achieve a societal transition in sustainable food purchasing behaviour: Influence of social networks explored with an empirically grounded agent-based model

I. Schubert, J. M. de Groot, & A. C. Newton

A transition towards sustainable food purchasing behaviour is vital for the survival of the planet. This study reports an agent-based model (ABM) grounded in psychological theory and empirical data to understand (1) transitions in sustainable food purchasing behaviour, and, (2) how three social network factors (i.e. network size, percentage of sustainable shoppers and percentage of food discussion partners in the social network) influence these transitions via psychological factors shown to be relevant to influence sustainable purchasing behaviour (i.e. intention, habit, personal and descriptive norm). The agents in the model are individual consumers. The three social network factors are systematically varied in the decision making process of the agents, resulting in a 3*3*3 experimental design (i.e., 27 experimental simulations). Findings provide evidence there is (1) a threshold effect during the transition in sustainable food purchasing behaviour as the spread of sustainable food shopping behaviour is fastest at the beginning phase of the experiments, slowing down towards the middle and end phase. The speed of the spread of behaviour is significantly influenced by the size of the social network and the number of initial sustainable shoppers in the personal network (2). The study provides a first glimpse of what a transition in sustainable food shopping may look like with the influence of social networks.

The persuasive power of art as a way to communicate climate change: an integrative conceptual framework

L.J. Roosen, L.K. Sommer, & C.A. Klöckner

This presentation discusses the benefits of using visual art as a way to communicate climate change based on a comprehensive review of the research literature. An integrating conceptual framework will be proposed. Art in climate communication can be beneficial by (1) defining a problem or societal issue, (2) setting a behavioural / attitudinal standard, (3) defining a common goal in line with universal or commonly held values, and (4) providing solutions in a visual way. Perceiving something as art demands attention, and processing art requires parts of the brain that are not normally accessed by climate communication. Art typically uses novel metaphors, analogies or narratives, which climate communication is generally lacking. In addition, art can provide people with a visualization of the problem and give them a personal experience with the subject matter, which is especially important regarding climate change as many people still see it as a very abstract issue and therefore fail to consider it a problem. Art may also help to establish a group identity and to give people a sense of being supported in their efforts to help combat climate change. Empirical findings from the literature on such effects will be presented.

Climate conscience: Linking objective CO2-emission estimates with subjective moral emotions and behavioral intentions in a representative German sample

J. Rees, S. Bamberg, & G. Bohner

Recent research documents the positive potential of negative moral emotions such as guilt and shame for motivating pro-environmental behavior. Yet, little is known about the prevalence and correlates of this ‘climate conscience’ in the general public. Using a representative sample (N = 701), we investigate the socio-demographic anatomy of climate conscience. We then link the psychological constructs of climate conscience and willingness to engage in behaviors to stop climate change with objective estimates of individual CO2-emissions. Results show a negative link between individuals’ estimated CO2-emissions and willingness to act that was mediated by a lack of climate conscience: Those objectively producing more CO2-emissions were less willing to take action (especially to accept tax increases if they help mitigate climate change, and to engage in climate protection initiatives). This link was explained by a lack of guilt and shame for how we humans treat the environment and what we leave behind for future generations. Discussion focuses on the need to foster climate conscience if sustainable climate policies and interventions are to be accepted by the general public. We also encourage more systematic and multidisciplinary work connecting psychological variables such as moral emotions and social norms with objective measures such as CO2-emissions.