Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 2:05 PM


DAVIS, Rebecah, Education, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305,

The purpose of this study is to test the conjecture that environmentally sustainable decisions and behaviors are related to individuals’ conceptions of the natural world, in this case climate change; individuals’ beliefs and attitudes; and the situations in which these decisions are made.

The current study measures mental models of climate change as a series of independent constructs and hypothesizes that an accurate mental model of climate change enables an individual to make effective evaluative judgments of environmental behavior options. The more an individual’s mental model resembles that of an expert, the more consistent, accurate and automatic these judgments become. However, an accurate mental model is not sufficient to change environmental behavior. Real decisions and behaviors are products of a person-situation interaction: an interplay between psychosocial factors (such as knowledge and attitudes) and the situation in which the decision is made. This study investigates the relationship between both psychosocial and situational factors for climate change decisions.

Data was collected from 436 adult participants through an online survey. The survey was comprised of demographic questions; three discreet instruments measuring (1) mental models of climate change, (2) attitudes and beliefs about climate change, and (3) self-reported behaviors; and an experimental intervention, followed by a behavioral intention question. Latent class analysis (LCA) and item-response theory (IRT) will be employed to analyze multiple-choice responses to the mental model survey to create groupings of individuals assumed to hold similar mental of climate change. A principal component analysis (PCA) using oblique rotation was employed to identify five scales (Chronbach’s alpha > 0.80) within the attitude/belief instrument. Total and sub-scale scores were also calculated for self-reported behaviors. The relationships between mental models, attitudes and behaviors will be analyzed using multiple regression models.

Understanding how climate change is conceptualized and how such knowledge influences attitudes and behaviors gives educators tools for guiding students towards more expert understandings while informing environmentalists in crafting more effective messages.