Intergroup conflict and climate justice

This paper is currently in press at WIREs Climate Change! Please email me if you would like an advanced draft. 

Although developed countries have been historically responsible for causing climate change, developing countries are more vulnerable to its current and future effects and being asked to commit to levels of climate action that exceed their responsibilities and capabilities. Climate change exacerbates existing social inequities by disproportionately impacting certain groups (including women, racial minorities, and the poor) more than others. Powerful institutions such as the government and the academy have a responsibility to alter this course and advance climate justice but are themselves marred by inequities. Given these disparities, the question of how the burden of climate change mitigation should be justly distributed amongst stakeholders is of paramount importance to international and domestic climate negotiations. Insights from the social identity and group processes literatures explain how experiences of inequity along geographical and sociodemographic dimensions generate identities and groups. As group members, people are sensitive to threats to the ingroup, experience collective emotions on behalf of the group, and differentially apply morality to in- versus outgroups. Members are also incentivized to protect and further their group’s interests relative to outgroups. Social psychology offers some promising avenues of research for potential solutions to mitigate the multilevel intergroup conflict posing as a barrier to climate justice. Climate governance recommendations to policymakers and negotiators include incentivizing integrative solutions and fully considering the justice implications of climate policy. Climate scholars are encouraged to pursue interdisciplinary collaborations, improve diversity within the academy and in research samples, and prioritize climate adaptation in developing contexts.

Collaborators: Elke U. Weber

Social norm networks in energy and environmental decision-making

See this work featured in the APS Observer magazine here and here! Both links include the pre-recorded video format of my talk at the 2021 Association for Psychological Science (APS) Conference.  To see the poster I presented at APS 2021, click here.  To see a recording of my talk at the 2021 Behavior, Energy, and Climate Change Conference, click here. To read a draft of our working paper on this project, click here

Prior work on norm-based behavioral interventions has largely focused on manipulating one or a few norms to influence a particular behavior. However, most behaviors (like energy use) are determined by multiple norms. In the current work, we identify norm networks and within them, norm clusters i.e., closely interrelated norms, and their connections to other norms, personal attitudes, and behaviors in the energy and environment domain. We expect that the network structure of norms in the same content domain varies between cultures. To demonstrate cross-cultural variations in norm networks, we measure energy and environment-related norm endorsements, personal attitudes, and behaviors of residents in two Indian states (Maharashtra, Delhi) and two American states (New York, Texas). As a methodological innovation in the social norms literature, we use network visualization and community detection techniques that have traditionally been used in the context of social networks to map our psychometric networks of norms and their relation to other psychological variables of interest. This work helps expand our understanding of the complex ways in which people in different cultures think about energy and the environment. This will allow us to leverage the norm landscapes surrounding energy and environmental behaviors to design better interventions, promote sustainable trends, curb unsustainable ones, and guide communities towards sustainable growth.

Collaborators: Elke U. Weber, Gregg Sparkman, Radhika Khosla

Community-engaged research to catalyze systemic change

This commentary is currently in press at Behavioral and Brain Sciences! Read the preprint here.

Addressing many social challenges requires both structural and behavioral change. The binary of an i- and s-frame obscures how behavioral science can help foster bottom-up collective action. Adopting a community-frame perspective moves towards a more integrative view of how social change emerges, and how it might be promoted by policymakers and publics in service of addressing challenges like climate change.

Collaborators: Elke U. Weber, Holly Caggiano, Sara M. Constantino, Jeffrey Lees

Attitude-behavior gaps and domain-specificity in prosocial and pro-environmental behaviors

People engage in prosocial or pro-environmental behaviors and lifestyles for various different reasons. For example, I might adopt a vegan diet for one, all, or any combination of the following reasons: animal welfare, concern for the environment, or health and fitness. If my motivation for veganism stems from my concern for animals or climate change, I might adopt related socially desirable or environmentally friendly behaviors such as trying to only buy ethical and sustainable clothing (i.e., made without the use of animal products and child labor, etc.). However, if I am vegan only for nutritional reasons, I might not care to engage in prosocial or pro-environmental behaviors in other domains (such as fashion) that I view as unrelated to my diet. 

We are interested in researching whether, when, why, and which people tend to have consistent attitudes and behaviors across domains. For people already acting desirably in one domain, we are trying to find ways in which to extend these prosocial and pro-environmental attitudes and behaviors to other related domains. Ultimately, the goal is to use the idea of attitude-behavior consistency across domains to promote prosocial and pro-environmental behaviors and curb undesirable or unsustainable ones.

Collaborators: Elke U. Weber

Consumer and policy preferences in energy and the environment across cultures

Click here to read the report I co-wrote and edited for Princeton Energy Dialogues

India is predicted to undergo large-scale urbanization with its population in urban areas set to double by 2050. Whether this urbanization process will be climate-conscious has major implications for global climate change. A sustainable pathway to urbanization is a collective action problem that requires cooperation from citizens and consumers, and not just techno-economic solutions that most Indian climate policies currently focus on. This implies that any sustainable transition would need changes in attitudes and behaviors of individuals, which depend on changes in personal and social norms. We are studying Indian citizens' dual roles as consumers of energy and as voters on climate policy in the world's largest democracy. To discern any cultural differences in energy and environment consumer and policy preferences, we are replicating our studies in 2 developed countries (US and Germany) and another developing country (China). Specifically, we aim to answer the following questions in a series of cross-cultural survey studies:

We will draw insights from these surveys to inform the design of corresponding conjoint studies in the same four countries to determine the weight given to different attributes of energy consumption and energy policies, and whether these weights differ between countries or by other demographics (age, income, education, etc.). 

Collaborators: Elke U. Weber, Pooja V. Ramamurthi

Mapping stakeholder influence on climate policy discourse in India

One of the goals of this project is to build a publicly available database for climate and sustainability-related communications from key stakeholders in India: government institutions and actors, private entities, academics, and activists. Once compiled, we will use this corpus to:

We are employing text-analysis tools such as structural topic modeling and sentiment analysis to aid us in our investigation.

Collaborators: Elke U. Weber, Pooja Ramamurthi, Jordana Composto

Shared decision-making in high-stakes medical scenarios

Click here to watch my talk at the MCubed Symposium held at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 2017. 

Despite recognition of the value of shared decision-making in critical situations, professionals may often limit their communication with patients and parents to providing medical information. However, failure to identify parents’ desired degree of decisional autonomy or to consider their personal values in these information-based approaches can lead to decisional conflict and regret. We are researching ways to improve provider-parent communication in high-stakes medical scenarios. In particular, we are investigating the effectiveness of values-guided shared decision-making over information-based approaches to tracheostomy decisions for infants (whose personal values are of course unknown and therefore for whom decisions are made by surrogates, i.e., their parents or guardians, adding a layer of complexity). Specifically, we aim to answer the following questions in a series of mixed-methods studies (including experimental surveys, interviews, etc.):