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Ideological roots of climate change denial: Resistance to change, acceptance of inequality, or both?
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-1211-5150
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Climate change denial has been found to correlate with sociopolitical ideology. The general aim of the present thesis was to investigate this relation, and more specifically to 1) test the unique effects of intercorrelated ideological variables on denial, and 2) investigate the psychological underpinnings of the ideology-denial relation. This approach helps estimating what component of right-wing ideology better explains climate change denial; resistance to change (indexed by left-right/liberal-conservative political orientation, right-wing authoritarianism, and system justification), or acceptance of inequality (indexed by social dominance orientation [SDO]). In Paper I, SDO outperformed the effects of right-wing authoritarianism and political left-right orientation on denial (Study 1 and 2). Further, the SDO-denial relation was stable when denial scores were experimentally lowered by a newscast that communicated supportive evidence for climate change (Study 2). Thus, the following studies focused specifically on the SDO-denial relation by testing path models that also included other ideological variables (political conservatism, system justification, and endorsement of nature dominance), as well as personality variables (dominance, empathy, openness to experience, and anxiety avoidance) and/or gender. In Paper II, SDO and endorsement of nature dominance explained unique parts of climate change denial, and both of these variables mediated the effects of system justification and (low) empathy on denial. SDO mediated also the effect of dominance. In Paper III, focusing specifically on denial of human-induced climate change, SDO either partially or fully mediated the effects of political conservatism and gender across two cultural contexts (Brazil and Sweden). Additional analyses extended these results, by building on the model presented in Paper II. These analyses showed that SDO (and in some cases also political conservatism and endorsement of nature dominance) fully mediated the effects of gender and personality variables on denial, with one exception: Predisposition to avoid experiencing anxiety predicted denial directly, as well as through a link via general conservative ideology (system justification or political conservatism). In sum, the results indicate that denial is more strongly and consistently predicted by SDO than by the other included variables. Thus, endorsement of group-based inequality/hierarchies offers an important explanation for climate change denial. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2016. , 82 p.
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Social Sciences, ISSN 1652-9030 ; 128
Keyword [en]
Climate change denial, ideology, political orientation, social dominance orientation, dominance of nature, personality, gender
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-297879ISBN: 978-91-554-9621-0OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-297879DiVA: diva2:945529
Public defence
2016-09-09, Sydney Alrutz room (13:026), Blåsenhus, von Kraemers Allé 1, Uppsala, 10:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 2011-1891
Available from: 2016-08-17 Created: 2016-06-28 Last updated: 2016-08-26
List of papers
1. Ideology and climate change denial
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Ideology and climate change denial
2014 (English)In: Personality and Individual Differences, ISSN 0191-8869, E-ISSN 1873-3549, Vol. 70, 62-65 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Examining the relation between ideological variables and climate change denial, we found social dominance orientation (SDO) to outperform right-wing authoritarianism and left-right political orientation in predicting denial (Study 1 and 2). In Study 2, where we experimentally altered the level of denial by a newscast communicating supporting evidence for climate change, we demonstrated that the relation between the ideology variables and denial remains stable across conditions (newscast vs. control). Thus, the results showed that denial can be altered by communicating climate change evidence regardless of peoples' position on ideology variables, in particular social dominance. We discuss the outcome in terms of core elements of SDO - dominance and system-justification motives - and encourage researchers on climate change denial to focus on these elements. 

Keyword
Ideology and climate change denial, Social dominance orientation, Right-wing authoritarianism, Political orientation
National Category
Psychology Climate Research
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-235053 (URN)10.1016/j.paid.2014.06.030 (DOI)000341469000012 ()
Available from: 2014-10-29 Created: 2014-10-28 Last updated: 2016-08-26Bibliographically approved
2. Social dominance orientation and climate change denial: The role of dominance and system justification
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Social dominance orientation and climate change denial: The role of dominance and system justification
2015 (English)In: Personality and Individual Differences, ISSN 0191-8869, E-ISSN 1873-3549, Vol. 86, 108-111 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Extending previous research, we examined whether the relation between social dominance orientation (SDO) and climate change denial reflects group-based dominance (SDO and nature dominance) or general system justification. Moreover, we examined whether the relation between personality (domineering and empathy) and denial is mediated by group-based dominance variables. The results showed that the group-based dominance variables reduce the effect of system justification on denial to nonsignificant. Also, social dominance and nature dominance explain unique parts of the variance in denial. Moreover, path analyses showed that the relations between empathy and system justification with denial are mediated by both of the group-based dominance variables, while the relation between domineering and denial is mediated only by SDO. Together, these results suggest that denial is driven partly by dominant personality and low empathy, and partly by motivation to justify and promote existing social and human-nature hierarchies. We conclude by suggesting that climate change mitigation efforts could be more successful if framed as being clearly beneficial for everybody and nonthreateningto existing social order.

Keyword
Climate change denial, Nature dominance, Social dominance orientation, System justification, Domineering, Empathy
National Category
Psychology Climate Research
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-255969 (URN)10.1016/j.paid.2015.05.041 (DOI)Accession Number: 000360255000018 ()
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 2011–1891
Available from: 2015-06-21 Created: 2015-06-21 Last updated: 2016-08-26Bibliographically approved
3. Denial of anthropogenic climate change: Social dominance orientation helps explain the conservative male effect in Brazil and Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Denial of anthropogenic climate change: Social dominance orientation helps explain the conservative male effect in Brazil and Sweden
2016 (English)In: Personality and Individual Differences, ISSN 0191-8869, E-ISSN 1873-3549, Vol. 98, 184-187 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Political conservatives and males are more likely to deny human influence on climate change. In this paper we examine the role of social dominance orientation (SDO) in explaining this “conservative male” effect by testing whether SDO mediates the influence of both political conservatism and gender on anthropogenic climate change denial. We use cross-sectional online-based data from Brazil (N = 367) and Sweden (N = 221) to test our mediation hypothesis. Results from path analysis showed that SDO partially or fully mediated the influence of political orientation and gender on anthropogenic climate change denial. The results provide insights about the role of SDO in the “conservative male” effect, and suggest that SDO could be considered more comprehensively in studies focusing on climate change denial and environmental attitudes/behaviors.

Keyword
Climate change denial; Political conservatism; Gender; Social dominance orientation
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-284920 (URN)
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 011–1891
Available from: 2016-04-19 Created: 2016-04-19 Last updated: 2016-08-26

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