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.

Social norms have been shown to influence various behaviors through simple interventions. Although prior research has been largely focused on modulating singular norms, norms do not exist in isolation. We are interested in researching networks of norms to see if and how norms connect, cluster, and influence each other. In a series of cross-cultural studies in the energy and environment domain, we aim to answer the following questions:

  • How can we surface and map networks of interconnected norms?

  • How do norms interrelate and influence each other in norm networks?

  • Are there clusters of norms within norm networks?

  • Are there causal hierarchies in norms?

  • What effect does manipulating a norm have on other norms in the same norm cluster?

  • How do personal attitudes and behaviors cluster around norm perceptions in norm networks?

  • How do norm networks in a particular domain vary across cultures?

  • And most importantly, how can we use norm networks to identify intervention targets in and change behavior?

Ultimately, we intend on using these norm networks and clusters within networks to inform and improve behavioral interventions and promote pro-environmental behaviors and deflate environmentally unsustainable trends.

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

Multilevel intergroup conflict at the core of climate (in)justice: Psychological challenges and ways forward

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. Being evolutionarily programmed to do so, members strive 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.

Click here to read a draft of our paper currently under review at WIRES Climate Change.

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:

  • What objectives do Indians seek to fulfill when making energy and environment-related decisions?

  • Which personal norms and attitudes dictate energy behavior?

  • Which social comparisons (with people in their own or industrialized countries) influence energy-related decisions and policy preferences?

  • Are there differences in energy and environment-related norm perceptions and behaviors in industrialized versus developing countries?

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 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:

  • Analyze climate change discourse in different stakeholder groups including most common topics, values and objectives,

  • Study which topics and objectives are either common, complementary, or dissimilar amongst stakeholders

  • Understand what sentiments are attached to each of these topics,

  • Learn the extent to which different stakeholders influence news media and political debate.

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.):

  • How does aligning physician recommendations to parental values influence parents' decisions?

  • Does receiving physician recommendations consistent with parental values (a) reduce indecision and (b) improve the perceived quality of the decision (i.e., increase decisional satisfaction and reduce decisional regret) in parents?