Promoting or ‘priming’ one type of value (e.g. by talking about the economic rationale for energy saving – a self-enhancing value) is likely to inhibit or weaken the prominence of competing values.
It is the self-transcending values which are most strongly correlated with concern about climate change, whilst endorsement of free-market economics and ‘self-enhancing’ values are associated with higher climate change scepticism.
The goal is to build a bridge between these types of values, to find messages which speak to both.
Recent research has shown that the desire to avoid wasting energy is a motivating message across the political spectrum15.
As you can see in Image 2 below, the idea of taking action to reduce energy waste, for example through poor insulation, is one that speaks to broad social norms (conformity), responsible behaviour and moderation – not being profligate with the use of energy.
This language associated with conservation acts as a bridge between self-enhancing and self-transcending values.
Reflect on the importance of values
10 Brulle, R.J., Carmichael, J. & Jenkins, J.C. (2012). Shifting public opinion on climate change: an empirical assessment of factors influencing concern over climate change in the U.S., 2002–2010. Climatic Change, 114 (2), 169-188. doi:10.1007/s10584-012-0403-y
11 Sturgis, P. & Allum, N. (2004). Science in society: Re-evaluating the deficit model of public attitudes. Public Understanding of Science, 13, 55–74. doi:10.1177/0963662504042690
12 Corner, A. & Clarke, J. (2016). Talking climate: From research to practice in public engagement. Palgrave Macmillan. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-46744-3
13 Schwartz, S.H. (1992). Universals in the Content and Structure of Values: Theoretical Advances and Empirical Tests in 20 Countries. United Kingdom: Academic Press, Inc.
12 Schwartz, Shalom, Cieciuch, Jan., Vecchione, Michael et al. 2012. ‘Refining the Theory of Basic Individual Values.’Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 103, 663–688
14 Whitmarsh, L. & Corner, A. (2017). Tools for a new climate conversation: A mixed-methods study of language for public engagement across the political spectrum. Global Environmental Change, 42, pp. 122-135. doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2016.12.008
Illustration by Barbara Govin created during the workshop held in Paris in September 2017
Images 1 & 2: Schwartz, S.H. (1992). Universals in the Content and Structure of Values: Theoretical Advances and Empirical Tests in 20 Countries. United Kingdom: Academic Press, Inc