The Dragons of Inaction : Psychological Barriers That

Report
The Dragons of Inaction :
Psychological Barriers That Limit
Climate Change Mitigation
PSYC 515
Tim Enad
Dominique Eyl
Natalie Hejran
Julie Hernandez
Gifford, R. (2011). The dragons of inaction: Psychological barriers that limit
climate change mitigation and adaptation. American Psychologist,
66(4), 290-302. doi: 10.1037/a0023566
Introduction


29 psychological barriers – “dragons of
inaction”
Broken into 7 categories:
◦
◦
◦
◦
◦
◦
◦
Limited cognition
Ideologies
Comparisons with others
Sunk costs
Discredence
Perceived risks
Limited behaviour
Gifford, R. (2011). The dragons of inaction:
Psychological barriers that limit climate
change mitigation and adaptation. American
Psychologist, 66(4), 290-302.doi:
10.1037/a0023566
Limited Cognition

Ancient brain
◦ We remain concerned with present time, dangers, and resources

Environmental numbness
◦ With too much stimuli about the environment, we become
numb to its message

Judgmental discounting
◦ The act of undervaluing future risk
◦ Conditions are perceived as worse in places other than ones
own habitat

Optimism bias
◦ Perception the environment will worsen in the future and in
areas outside where one lives

Perceived behavioural control
◦ A lack of action due to a perceived lack of worthwhile effect
Gifford, R. (2011). The dragons of inaction:
Psychological barriers that limit climate
change mitigation and adaptation. American
Psychologist, 66(4), 290-302.doi:
10.1037/a0023566
Ideologies

Suprahuman powers
◦ A deity or nature itself will solve our climate
problems

Technosalvation
◦ Technology will solve our climate problems

System justification
◦ The tendency to defend the status quo
Gifford, R. (2011). The dragons of inaction:
Psychological barriers that limit climate
change mitigation and adaptation. American
Psychologist, 66(4), 290-302.doi:
10.1037/a0023566
Comparisons with Others

Social comparison
◦ We derive norms about what is right based
on the actions of others
Social norms
 Perceived inequity

◦ The fear you will be taken advantage of by
those who do not take action if you choose
to
Gifford, R. (2011). The dragons of inaction:
Psychological barriers that limit climate
change mitigation and adaptation. American
Psychologist, 66(4), 290-302.doi:
10.1037/a0023566
Sunk Costs

Financial investments
◦ After making a financial investment, it’s hard to
turn your back on it

Behavioural momentum
◦ Some behaviours are so habituated they are
resistant to change
◦ These behaviours require a substantial push to
change

Conflicting values, goals, or aspirations
◦ The desire to get ahead often outranks the desire
to change behaviours to mitigate climate change
Gifford, R. (2011). The dragons of inaction:
Psychological barriers that limit climate
change mitigation and adaptation. American
Psychologist, 66(4), 290-302.doi:
10.1037/a0023566
Discredence

Perceived program inadequacy
◦ Many programs are voluntary so many citizens
think it’s not worth their time

Reactance
◦ Change threatens freedom
Gifford, R. (2011). The dragons of inaction:
Psychological barriers that limit climate
change mitigation and adaptation. American
Psychologist, 66(4), 290-302.doi:
10.1037/a0023566
Perceived Risks and Limited
Behaviour





Functional
Financial
Social
Temporal
Tokenism
◦ Some pro-environmental actions do not do as
much for the environment but are easier for
people to adopt

Rebound effect
◦ Pro-environmental action is taken but results in
anti-environmental behaviour
Gifford, R. (2011). The dragons of inaction:
Psychological barriers that limit climate
change mitigation and adaptation. American
Psychologist, 66(4), 290-302.doi:
10.1037/a0023566
Bill Nye and Rep. Blackburn

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MR4
GrHPDcWE
Gifford, R. (2011). The dragons of inaction:
Psychological barriers that limit climate
change mitigation and adaptation. American
Psychologist, 66(4), 290-302.doi:
10.1037/a0023566
Critical Review
Informative Points
Judgmental discounting in Britain: inhabitants
think environmental conditions in similar cities
are worse
 Many of Gifford’s points overlapped: several
dragons are perhaps one idea
 When people are uncertain of the amount left
in a resource pool, they tend to use that
resource at a rate of self-interest rather than
what is best for the environment

Gifford, R. (2011). The dragons of inaction:
Psychological barriers that limit climate
change mitigation and adaptation. American
Psychologist, 66(4), 290-302.doi:
10.1037/a0023566
Critical Review
Weak Arguments



Lack of evidence for the idea of (lack of) place
attachments: people are more likely to care for a
place they feel attached to.
Lack of evidence for discredence: when individuals
hold the views of others in a negative light, they are
unlikely to take direction from those others
No hard evidence that any of the six perceived
risks Gifford mentioned actually lead to
engagement in environmentally friendly behaviors
Gifford, R. (2011). The dragons of inaction:
Psychological barriers that limit climate
change mitigation and adaptation. American
Psychologist, 66(4), 290-302.doi:
10.1037/a0023566
Questions
Do you think the debate mentioned any
dragon of inaction? Was there a proposed
solution?
 Some of these psychological barriers are
similar; should they be approached
together or separately?
 Based on the psychological barriers
presented, which group do you think
would be most effective in bringing about
change?

Gifford, R. (2011). The dragons of inaction:
Psychological barriers that limit climate
change mitigation and adaptation. American
Psychologist, 66(4), 290-302.doi:
10.1037/a0023566

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