Study: Climate Believers Are More Likely to Trust Strangers

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From Watts Up With That?

Essay by Eric Worrall

Perhaps greens find it difficult to imagine that scientific authority figures can be self serving lying toads, just like anyone else.

Climate change believers are more likely to cooperate with strangers, new research finds

Published: May 17, 2023 10.01am AEST
Ananish Chaudhuri Professor of Behavioural and Experimental Economics, University of Auckland
Quentin Douglas Atkinson Professor of Psychology, University of Auckland
Scott Claessens Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Auckland

Willingness to cooperate

Using such micro-scale social dilemma games, we found a general psychological preference for cooperation that we refer to as the “cooperative phenotype” (phenotype being all observable characteristics of an organism). These were people who routinely cooperate with strangers even if that means sacrificing money. 

We found at least some evidence for the second scenario – those who are more cooperative tended to believe in the facts of climate change and were willing to take action.

Crucially, this doesn’t mean conservatives are less generous. Evidence suggests that when it comes to cooperative issues like contributing to charity, conservatives and progressives don’t differ in how much they give, so much as who they give to. 

While progressives are more comfortable with contributing to large anonymous groups (such as charities or governmental agencies), conservative giving is often much more targeted at the local community level.

Our findings apply primarily to a developed Western population and more work is needed to generalise beyond this. However, our work offers the promise that a potential way to change minds is to convince people that climate change issues are merely a larger-scale extension of local social dilemmas. 

…Read more:

The abstract of the study;

Cooperative phenotype predicts climate change belief and pro‐environmental behaviour 

Scott Claessens1, Daniel Kelly1, Chris G. Sibley1, Ananish Chaudhuri2,3 & Quentin D. Atkinson1*

Understanding the psychological causes of variation in climate change belief and pro‐environmental behaviour remains an urgent challenge for the social sciences. The “cooperative phenotype” is a stable psychological preference for cooperating in social dilemmas that involve a tension between individual and collective interest. Since climate change poses a social dilemma on a global scale, this issue may evoke similar psychological processes as smaller social dilemmas. Here, we investigate the relationships between the cooperative phenotype and climate change belief and behaviour with a representative sample of New Zealanders (= 897). By linking behaviour in a suite of economic games to self‐reported climate attitudes, we show robust positive associations between the cooperative phenotype and both climate change belief and pro‐environmental behaviour. Furthermore, our structural equation models support a motivated reasoning account in which the relationship between the cooperative phenotype and pro‐environmental behaviour is mediated by climate change belief. These findings suggest that common psychological mechanisms underlie cooperation in both micro‐ scale social dilemmas and larger‐scale social dilemmas like climate change.Read more:

I think the researchers have still missed the point. Re-casting climate change as a local issue won’t move conservatives, because we don’t trust the people who are doing the re-casting.

What is needed is some actual evidence that climate change is a problem.

But if climate scientists were able to provide substantial evidence of a problem, instead of a shotgun scatter of dubious climate predictions which we’re supposed to accept as serious science, there probably wouldn’t be a need for psychological studies into why some people reject climate messaging.