Understanding the psychological distance of climate change: The limitations of construal level theory and suggestions for alternative theoretical perspectives

Gadient-Brügger, Adrian (2020). Understanding the psychological distance of climate change: The limitations of construal level theory and suggestions for alternative theoretical perspectives. Global environmental change, 60, p. 102023. Elsevier 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2019.102023

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Many perceive climate change to be more relevant to distant places, future times, and other people than to the here and now and oneself. This perception has sparked interest in construal level theory (CLT) as a framework to understand how the public sees climate change, and how the subjective psychological distance at which people mentally represent objects affects their decisions and actions. Although at first CLT may appear to be the ideal lens through which to investigate psychological distance, I argue that applications of the theory in explaining and predicting climate change (in)action are limited. Researchers have sometimes used CLT in ways inconsistent with its original articulation; namely, (1) when claiming that psychological distant events are less personally relevant than close events; (2) when treating psychological distance as a stable individual belief; and (3) when speculating about what happens when such beliefs change. This article identifies places where research diverges from the scope of CLT, and suggests alternative perspectives that are theoretically better suited to investigating some important and common questions. As a constructive plea for theoretically rigorous research projects and practical work, this article outlines directions for future research that should help advance the field's understanding of psychological distance in the context of climate change and make interventions more effective.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

03 Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences > Department of Business Management > Institute of Innovation Management > Consumer Behavior

UniBE Contributor:

Gadient-Brügger, Adrian

Subjects:

600 Technology > 650 Management & public relations

ISSN:

0959-3780

Publisher:

Elsevier

Language:

English

Submitter:

Adrian Gadient-Brügger

Date Deposited:

17 Feb 2020 15:57

Last Modified:

23 Feb 2020 02:49

Publisher DOI:

10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2019.102023

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.140304

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/140304

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