Dribs and Drabs 1

Resource Library Header: 

Search below for resources covering the intersection of climate engagement, social science and data analytics.

Second Half of Social Science Field Guide Page: 

The goal of this Field Guide is to help you understand the behavioral and social science assumptions behind campaign work, and then use the latest research to shed light on these assumptions’ validity.

Assumptions Underlie Many of the Frames in Which We Work: How Accurate Are They?

Underlying each step in a engagement campaign are common assumptions—about human behavior, perception and what motivates people. These assumptions may or may not be conscious, yet they directly inform how we approach our work. They may be widely held and shared, i.e. “People need to understand the impacts of climate change,” or they may be idiosyncratic. Many concern psychological, social and cultural aspects of climate change issues and how best to communicate and engage people.

We have identified some of the more commonly used communications frames employed in climate communications. Our intention is to set the stage for illustrating how the FRAMES we use—that is, our rhetorical techniques and strategies—are based on assumptions that often go unexamined.

To that end, we then examine 17 common behavioral and social science ASSUMPTIONS underlying climate engagement campaigns. These can be thought of as theories as to why people react the way they do to different types of engagement around climate change.

We then present a snapshot view of our take on ‘what research says’ about each of these assumptions, complete with a “Thumbs Up”-“Thumbs Down”-“Mixed Bag” grading system. Social sciences, like any discipline or field (including climate change advocacy), is marked by debates and energetic divergences. However, it is important to understand how the evolving field of climate change psychology and behavioral sciences can inform our work on the ground.

You Take it from Here

In this Field Guide, we are not going to tell you what to work on. We are not even going to tell you what to do. Those decisions belong in the domain of the political science, strategy and analysis. Rather, we invite you into a process of reflection and examination that we hope leads to creating your best work possible.

We want to make the unconscious assumptions that underlie our work more transparent—and to “reality test” based on what we currently know from relevant research and social sciences.

One last but critical note: our understandings of the human dimensions of climate change are in fact in an early stage, as the first papers published on the psychology of climate change were written only a few decades ago. Therefore what we are presenting is a snapshot of current thinking—with the recognition that the more social scientists and climate practitioners work together to uncover the behavioral, social and cultural dimensions of climate change, the more we can revise and improve our work.

So think of this Field Guide as a kind of map of the territory, with navigation and keys, to help us identify better ways to work. It offers insight into how we can become more effective, skilled and thoughtful about the climate outreach work we do.

Search Page Header: 

Looking for something within the Climate Advocacy Lab? Enter search terms below to search through the Lab's content.