Most Americans believe that climate change is occurring. But as a recent Pew survey confirms, we don’t view it as a high-priority problem. After all, we reason, its most severe impacts won’t be felt for decades. So why change our behavior now?
New research points to a simple way to shift this maddening mindset. A team led by Columbia University psychologist Lisa Zaval finds people take the issue of environmental sustainability much more seriously if they have been thinking about their legacy.
“When people’s latent motivation to leave behind a positive legacy is made salient … behavior shifts toward favoring the well-being of future others,” the researchers report in the journal Psychological Science.“Prompts that encourage people to think about how they would want to be remembered (or perhaps what they don’t want to be remembered for) may effectively promote environmental behavior.”
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