My latest paper with Susie Wang, Zoe Leviston, Carmen Lawrence, and Iain Walker “Climate change from a distance: Psychological distance and construal level as predictors of pro-environmental engagement” has just been accepted for publication for a special issue of the journal Frontiers in Psychology on the “Cognitive Psychology of Climate Change”. The abstract for the paper is below:
The public perception of climate change as abstract and distant may undermine climate action. According to construal level theory, whether a phenomenon is perceived as psychologically distant or close is associated with whether it is construed as abstract or concrete, respectively. Previous work has established a link between psychological distance and climate action, but the associated role of construal level has yet to be explored in depth. In two representative surveys of Australians (N = 217 and N = 216), and one experiment (N = 319), we tested whether construal level and psychological distance from climate change predicted pro-environmental intentions and policy support, and whether manipulating distance and construal increased proenvironmental behaviours such as donations. Results showed that psychological closeness to climate change predicted more engagement in pro-environmental behaviours, while construal level produced inconsistent results, and manipulations of both variables failed to produce increases in pro-environmental behaviours. In contrast with the central tenet of construal level theory, construal level was unrelated to psychological distance in all three studies. Our findings suggest that the hypothesised relationship between construal level and psychological distance may not hold in the context of climate change, and that it may be difficult to change proenvironmental behaviour by manipulating these variables.
My latest paper with Isabel Rossen, Patrick Dunlop, and Carmen Lawrence “Accepters, fence sitters, or rejecters: Moral profiles of vaccination attitudes” has just been accepted for publication in Social Science & Medicine. The abstract for the paper is below:
Rationale: Childhood vaccination is a safe and effective way of reducing infectious diseases. Yet, public confidence in vaccination is waning, driven in part by the ‘manufacture of doubt’ by anti-vaccination activists and websites. However, there is little research examining the psychological underpinnings of anti-vaccination rhetoric among parents. Objectives: Here, we examined the structure and moral roots of anti-vaccination attitudes amongst Australian parents active on social media parenting sites. Methods: Participants (N = 296) completed questionnaires assessing their vaccination attitudes, behavioural intentions, and moral preferences. Results: Using Latent Profile Analysis, we identified three profiles (i.e., groups), interpretable as vaccine “accepters”, “fence sitters”, and “rejecters”, each characterised by a distinct pattern of vaccination attitudes and moral preferences. Accepters exhibited positive vaccination attitudes and strong intentions to vaccinate; rejecters exhibited the opposite pattern of responses; whilst fence sitters exhibited an intermediate pattern of responses. Compared to accepters, rejecters and fence sitters exhibited a heightened moral preference for liberty (belief in the rights of the individual) and harm (concern about the wellbeing of others). Compared to acceptors and fence sitters, rejecters exhibited a heightened moral preference for purity (an abhorrence for impurity of body), and a diminished moral preference for authority (deference to those in positions of power). Conclusion: Given the sensitivity of fence sitters and rejecters to liberty-related moral concerns, our research cautions against the use of adversarial approaches—e.g., No Jab, No Pay legislation—that promote vaccination uptake by restricting parental freedoms, as they may backfire amongst parents ambivalent toward vaccination.
My latest paper with Matthew Andreotta, Robertus Nugroho, Fabio Boschetti, Simon Farrell, Iain Walker, and Cecile Paris “Analyzing social media data: A mixed-methods framework combining computational and qualitative text analysis” has just been accepted for a special issue of the journal Behavior Research Methods on “Beyond the Lab: Using Big Data to Discover Principles of Cognition”. The abstract for the paper is below:
To qualitative researchers, social media offers a novel opportunity to harvest a massive and diverse range of content, without the need for intrusive or intensive data collection procedures. However, performing a qualitative analysis across a massive social media data set is cumbersome and impractical. Instead, researchers often extract a subset of content to analyze, but a framework to facilitate this process is currently lacking. We present a four-phased framework for improving this extraction process, which blends the capacities of data science techniques to compress large data sets into smaller spaces, with the capabilities of qualitative analysis to address research questions. We demonstrate this framework by investigating the topics of Australian Twitter commentary on climate change, using quantitative (Non-Negative Matrix inter-joint Factorization; Topic Alignment) and qualitative (Thematic Analysis) techniques. Our approach is useful for researchers seeking to perform qualitative analyses of social media, or researchers wanting to supplement their quantitative work with a qualitative analysis of broader social context and meaning.
My latest paper with Belinda Xie and Iain Walker “Correct me if I’m wrong: A group decision making intervention improves reasoning in the climate stabilization task” has just been accepted for a special issue of the journal Frontiers in Psychology on the “Cognitive Psychology of Climate Change” of which I am a co-editor. The abstract for the paper is below:
Avoiding dangerous climate change requires ambitious emissions reduction. Scientists agree on this, but policy-makers and citizens do not. This discrepancy can be partly attributed to faulty mental models, which cause individuals to misunderstand the carbon dioxide (CO2) system. For example, in the Climate Stabilization Task (hereafter, ‘CST’) (Sterman & Booth-Sweeney, 2007), individuals systematically underestimate the emissions reduction required to stabilize atmospheric CO2 levels, which may lead them to endorse ineffective ‘wait-and-see’ climate policies. Thus far, interventions to correct faulty mental models in the CST have failed to produce robust improvements in decision-making. Here, in the first study to test a group-based intervention, we found that success rates on the CST markedly increased after participants deliberated with peers in a group discussion. The group discussion served to invalidate the faulty reasoning strategies used by some individual group members, thus increasing the proportion of group members who possessed the correct mental model of the CO2 system. Our findings suggest that policy-making and public education would benefit from group-based practices.
My latest paper with Klaus Oberauer, Stephan Lewandowsky (and many other co-authors) “Benchmarks for models of short-term and working memory” has just been published in Psychological Bulletin. The abstract for the paper is below:
Any mature field of research in psychology – such as short-term/working memory – is characterized by a wealth of empirical findings. It is currently unrealistic to expect a theory to explain them all; theorists must satisfice with explaining a subset of findings. The aim of the present article is to make the choice of that subset less arbitrary and idiosyncratic than is current practice. We propose criteria for identifying benchmark findings that every theory in a field should be able to explain: Benchmarks should be reproducible, generalize across materials and methodological variations, and be theoretically informative. We propose a set of benchmarks for theories and computational models of short-term and working memory. The benchmarks are described in as theory-neutral a way as possible, so that they can serve as empirical common ground for competing theoretical approaches. Benchmarks are rated on three levels according to their priority for explanation. Selection and ratings of the benchmarks is based on consensus among the authors, who jointly represent a broad range of theoretical perspectives on working memory, and they are supported by a survey among other experts on working memory. The article is accompanied by a web page providing an open forum for discussion; a site for submitting proposals for new benchmarks; and a repository for reference data sets for each benchmark.