Collaborative Research: Responses to complex disruptive events: Cognition in a socio-political context

Project Details

Description

Health and economic crises, extreme storms, and other complex and disruptive events require decisions under high levels of risk and uncertainty. In these contexts, individuals often turn to trusted sources, such as close relations, community leaders, and political officials, for information about risks, responsibility and how to best respond. Some of these public actors are motivated to strategically highlight certain narratives surrounding such events, which can in turn shape the risk perceptions, beliefs and responses of their constituencies. Through a series of surveys, stakeholder interviews and social media analysis, the research team examines the factors that shape how individuals are impacted by, make sense of, and respond to extreme weather and other climatic pressures; and how public officials and other elites frame these events and communicate responsibility and blame. This research contributes to interdisciplinary research and psychological, social, and political theory by considering the interactions between individuals and the broader sociopolitical context. This work has implications for communication and policy making around complex, disruptive events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic or other global change processes, and offers insights into how policy makers might tailor messages to different contexts and audiences. Furthermore, the research uses a longitudinal design to predict whether certain behaviors are a gateway for more costly ones, or a scaffolding for raising environmental awareness, political engagement, and social norm change. Coastal policy involves federal, regional, state, and local institutions that have overlapping responsibilities, which can lead to conflicting incentives. This work clarifies the net effect of these institutions on individuals and their responses. Finally,the researchers co-develop many of the study materials in partnership with local organizations and policy makers in order to maximize the contribution of this study to improve the welfare and livelihoods of front-line communities, and future generations.

Specifically, this project evaluates individual and public attributions of and responses to acute extreme weather events and climatic pressures unfolding on longer timescales, such as sea level rise. The scholars examine factors and processes that shape how individuals are impacted by, make sense of and respond to extreme weather and other climatic pressures. They ask: (A) In complex disruptive situations, how do perceived causal attributions, risk, agency, response capacity, and behavior interrelate, and how do these relationships depend on individual characteristics or experience? (B) How do social and political influences affect individual decision-making, and are they more influential when individuals are more uncertain about the cause(s) of an event? (C) How do politicians and the media shape the narratives surrounding these events, and what are the implications for individuals and society? (D) How do behaviors feed back onto attributions, perceptions, and related behaviors? These researchers use a mixed-methods approach that combines surveys, qualitative interviews, administrative data and social media data to assess multiple outcomes evaluated together for the first time. The research contributes to psychological, social, and political theory by evaluating how individuals, embedded in complex physical and sociopolitical environments, make sense of and respond to ambiguous cues using social and public information. The work also has implications for communication and policy making around disruptive events, including pandemics and the looming crisis of climate change. Political analysis provides insight into relationships between individuals and politicians, and the importance of creating structures that mandate investment in resilience and preparedness to counteract moral hazard. Coastal policy involves federal, regional, state, and local institutions that have overlapping responsibilities, which can lead to conflicting incentives. The work aims to clarify the net effect of these institutions on individuals and their responses in order to improve the welfare and livelihoods of vulnerable communities.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

StatusFinished
Effective start/end date4/15/213/31/23

Funding

  • National Science Foundation: $113,441.00

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