Psychologists’ Task Force Report Identifies Principal Barriers to Understanding

“We must look at all the reasons people are not acting in order to understand how to get people to act.”

That through-the-looking-glass assessment comes from Penn State Psychology Professor Janet Swim, PhD., chair of an American Psychological Association task force on climate change. Count psychologists among the growing number of social scientists who see an important role for themselves on the climate change issue.

The task force’s report, released this summer at APA’s annual convention in Toronto and based on a review of decades of psychological research, points to a number of specific psychological barriers to public involvement on the issue: uncertainty, mistrust of and disbelief in risk messages from scientists and government officials; denial that climate change is occurring or that human activities have anything to do with that warming; underestimation of risks resulting from climate change; a sense that humans can’t effect changes in the future climate; and ingrained behavior … habit: “the most important obstacle to pro-environment behavior.”

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