Austrian Climate Researchers Excited About Manipulating the Minds of Children

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Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Researchers from Austria and the UK are excited that an experiment in Innsbruck, Austria successfully used children to manipulated adults, pressuring raised parent participation in green charitable giving.

Climate change: Children push parents to be more conscious about global warming, research finds

Parents chose to invest more cash in a forestry scheme rather than keep it for themselves, when they were being observed by their offspring

By Sally Guyoncourt January 4, 2022 7:00 pm(Updated 7:13 pm)

Children are the driving force for a more climate-conscious future, researchers have discovered – with parents proving to be more environmentally aware in the presence of the younger generation.

A study carried out in Innsbruck, Austria, in partnership with the University of Exeter, looked at what motivated “voluntary climate action” across the generations, focusing on parents and children.

The overwhelming conclusion was that children pushed parents to think of the future and their environmental responsibilities.

Oliver Hauser, Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Exeter Business School, and co-author of the study, said: “When their own children are present during this decision, parents are reminded of their responsibility to their children and the benefits of investing into their future.”

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The abstract of the study;

Open Access


Climate Action for (My) Children

Helena Fornwagner & Oliver P. Hauser 
Environmental and Resource Economics volume 81, pages 95–130 (2022)


How do we motivate cooperation across the generations—between parents and children? Here we study voluntary climate action (VCA), which is costly to today’s decision-makers but essential to enable sustainable living for future generations. We predict that “offspring observability” is critical: parents will be more likely to invest in VCA when their own offspring observes their action, whereas when adults or genetically unrelated children observe them, the effect will be smaller. In a large-scale lab-in-the-field experiment, we observe a remarkable magnitude of VCA: parents invest 82% of their 69€ endowment into VCA, resulting in almost 14,000 real trees being planted. Parents’ VCA varies across conditions, with the largest treatment effect occurring when a parent’s own child is the observer. In subgroup analyses, we find that larger treatment effects occur among parents with a high school diploma. Moreover, VCA for parents who believe in climate change is most affected by the presence of their own child. In contrast, VCA of climate change skeptical parents is most influenced by the presence of children to whom they are not related. Our findings have implications for policy-makers interested in designing programs to encourage voluntary climate action and sustaining intergenerational public goods.

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The activism in this case was pretty weak, parents were given €69, presented with information about climate change, then asked how much they wanted to pocket vs how much they wanted to give towards planting trees. Researchers were excited the parents chose to give more when their own children watched them make their decision.

I personally find such manipulation of children utterly repulsive, even in a experimental context.

Children are vulnerable, their critical thinking skills are immature. They have not had the real life experience to reject climate disaster messages and other nonsensical claims.

I’m sure the researchers thought they were doing the right thing, and for what it’s worth, I don’t think their experiment did any lasting harm. But I find the context of the experiment deeply disturbing. Deliberately targeting children, experimenting to see whether children could help with emotional manipulation of parents, this kind of thing makes my blood run cold.

via Watts Up With That?

January 5, 2022