01 Apr 2021
My latest paper with Susie Wang, Zoe Leviston, Iain Walker, and Carmen Lawrence, “Construal Level Theory and Psychological Distancing: Implications for Grand Environmental Challenges” has just been accepted for publication in One Earth. The summary for the paper is below:
Research in social and cognitive sciences has used the Construal Level Theory (CLT) of psychological distance as a framework for understanding environmental challenges such as climate change. This primer reflects on the how psychological distance and construal can help to understand environmental challenges, from the perceptions and social construction of environmental issues as distant and abstract, to implications for decision-making and action towards long-term targets. We also reflect on areas where the theory and concept are less useful, when assuming that psychological distance and construal level can be easily reduced or altered to promote lasting changes to environmental action.
20 Dec 2020
My latest paper with Douglas MacFarlance, Li Tay, and Ullrich Ecker, “Refuting Spurious COVID-19 Treatment Claims Reduces Demand and Misinformation Sharing” has just been accepted for publication in the Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition. The abstract for the paper is below:
The COVID 19 pandemic has seen a surge of health misinformation, which has had serious consequences including direct harm and opportunity costs. We investigated (N = 678) the impact of such misinformation on hypothetical demand (i.e., willingness to pay) for an unproven treatment, and propensity to promote (i.e., like or share) misinformation online. This is a novel approach, as previous research has used mainly questionnaire based measures of reasoning. We also tested two interventions to counteract the misinformation, contrasting a tentative refutation based on materials used by health authorities with an enhanced refutation based on best practice recommendations. We found prior exposure to misinformation increased misinformation promotion (by 18%). Both tentative and enhanced refutations reduced demand (by 18% and 25%, respectively) as well as misinformation promotion (by 29% and 55%). The fact that enhanced refutations were more effective at curbing promotion of misinformation highlights the need for debunking interventions to follow current best practice guidelines.
29 Jun 2020
My latest paper with Ullrich Echer, Lucy Butler, John Cook, Tim Kurz, and Stephan Lewandowsky “Using the COVID-19 Economic Crisis to Frame Climate Change as a Secondary Issue Reduces Mitigation Support” has just been accepted for publication in the Journal of Environmental Psychology. The abstract for the paper is below:
The COVID-19 pandemic has understandably dominated public discourse, crowding out other important issues such as climate change. Currently, if climate change enters the arena of public debate, it primarily does so in direct relation to the pandemic. In two experiments, we investigated (1) whether portraying the response to the COVID-19 threat as a “trial run” for future climate action would increase climate-change concern and mitigation support, and (2) whether portraying climate change as a concern that needs to take a “back seat” while focus lies on economic recovery would decrease climate-change concern and mitigation support. We found no support for the effectiveness of a trial-run frame in either experiment. In Experiment 1, we found that a back-seat frame reduced participants’ support for mitigative action. In Experiment 2, the back-seat framing reduced both climate change concern and mitigation support; a combined inoculation and refutation was able to offset the drop in climate concern but not the reduction in mitigation support.
26 Jun 2020
My latest paper, a book chapter entitled “Serial Recall”, has just been accepted for publication in the forthcoming Oxford Hanbook on Human Memory edited by Mike Kahana and Anthony Wagner. The abstract for the book chapter is below:
Serial memory refers to the ability to recall a novel sequence of items or events in the correct order. In the laboratory, the dominant tool used to assess this mental faculty is the immediate serial recall (hereafter, ‘serial recall’) task in which participants are given a sequence of typically verbal, visual, or spatial items that they must subsequently recall in their original presentation order. Serial recall is a deceptively simple task—the apparent ease with which people accomplish it masks the wealth and complexity of findings this task has generated, and the computational theories that have been developed to account for them. In this chapter, I review benchmark findings of serial recall that have been observed across the verbal, visual, and spatial short-term memory domains, and I interpret them with reference to the core mechanisms embodied in contemporary computational theories of serial recall. This analysis identifies four mechanisms that are common to the three content domains—namely, position marking, a primacy gradient, competitive queuing, and response suppression. Additionally, evidence suggests that in verbal serial recall both the encoding and retrieval of items is sensitive to item similarity—similarity-sensitive encoding and retrieval—and that item retrieval is accompanied by output interference. By contrast, in visual and spatial serial recall there is evidence for similarity-sensitive retrieval, but the relevant empirical observations that evince similarity-sensitive encoding and output interference are yet to be studied in the visual and spatial domains. I conclude by outlining some challenges for future research.
22 May 2020
My latest paper with Douglas MacFarlane and Ullrich Ecker “Countering Demand for Ineffective Health Remedies: Do Consumers Respond to Risks, Lack of Benefits, or Both?” has just been accepted for publication in the journal Psychology & Health. The abstract for the paper is below:
Objective: We tested whether targeting the illusion of causality and/or misperceptions about health risks had the potential to reduce consumer demand for an ineffective health remedy (multivitamin supplements). Design: We adopted a 2 (contingency information: no/yes) × 2 (fear appeal: no/yes) factorial design, with willingness-to-pay as the dependent variable. The contingency information specified, in table format, the number of people reporting a benefit vs. no benefit from both multivitamins and placebo, plus a causal explanation for lack of efficacy over placebo. The fear appeal involved a summary of clinical-trial results that indicated multivitamins can cause health harms. The control condition received only irrelevant information. Main outcome measure: Experimental auctions measured people’s willingness- to-pay for multivitamins. Experiment 1 (N = 260) elicited hypothetical willingness-to-pay online. Experiment 2 (N = 207) elicited incentivised willingness-to-pay in the laboratory. Results: Compared to a control group, we found independent effects of contingency information (-22%) and the fear appeal (-32%) on willingness-to- pay. The combination of both interventions had the greatest impact (-50%) on willingness-to-pay. Conclusion: We found evidence that consumer choices are influenced by both perceptions of efficacy and risk. The combination of both elements can provide additive effects that appear superior to either approach alone.