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Veranstaltungen von Prof. Dr. Astrid Kause


Perception and communication of environmental risks: Psychological foundations (Seminar)

Dozent/in: Astrid Kause

wöchentlich | Donnerstag | 12:15 - 13:45 | 16.10.2023 - 02.02.2024 | C 11.307 Seminarraum

Inhalt: “Nothing can be said to be certain but death and taxes” wrote Benjamin Franklin just before the French Revolution. This ironic comment expresses that in our everyday lives, we permanently face risks, and associated uncertainties, and often, we do not even notice. But, instead of facing risks or trying to understand their real nature, many people, including experts or politicians, try to avoid risks or even behave in ways that harm themselves or others. Consequently, they may fear what is not really dangerous, but ignore what may actually be harmful. But, democratic systems require that individuals can understand risks, and make informed decisions. Through the lens of environmental psychology and related disciplines, we will first define what risk and uncertainty are for individuals, and look at theories for conceptualising these. This extends to individual differences in risk perceptions, such as environmental values, political affiliation, or whether people have directly experienced floods, extreme heat or other environmental hazards. Second, we will study how risks are communicated, namely how numbers, pictures and words shape risk perceptions. With this background, we’ll finally discuss why and how psychological research on risk perception and communication can help building a society which is capable to deal with environmental risks. The seminar will include topical sessions with student-led discussions, break-out groups and short presentations. Learning goals are a solid understanding of mechanisms of risk perception and communication, and of the methods used by psychologists and scientists from related disciplines for studying these. This will include 1) reading and interpreting scientific evidence and presenting it to others 2) applying this scientific evidence to practice, 3) developing one’s own research idea and refining it over the course of the seminar 4) discussing the broader societal relevance of transparent and clear risk communications.

The Psychology of Environmental Judgments and Decisions (Seminar)

Dozent/in: Astrid Kause

wöchentlich | Mittwoch | 16:15 - 17:45 | 16.10.2023 - 02.02.2024 | C 14.103 Seminarraum

Inhalt: Why can sustainable behavior be difficult for people, even though they are highly motivated to reduce their impact, and easy for others who may care less? For effectively addressing challenges related to sustainability, we need to understand how individual judgments and behaviors relate to a wider societal and political context. In this course, we will look at psychological theories and empirical findings about two major themes: 1) how people perceive risks (and other challenges) related to sustainability and the environment, including communications about those, and 2) people's environmental behaviors, their determinants and how to predict them. This will include an introduction into and several examples about how decision scientists empirically study these topics, as well as how their findings help scientists, policy makers and the general public to communicate about and make more competent decisions regarding sustainability. We will draw on core literature from the field of decision sciences. Following an introduction into the field of (environmental) judgments and behaviors, (teams of) students will present relevant theories and empirical findings. They will apply them for understanding current and often highly debated sustainability challenges, such as for example the massive and ongoing use of fossil-fuel based energy systems, carbon emissions caused by animal-based proteins; the opposition to technologies such as onshore wind farms, or carbon capture and storage. We will also discuss practical applications of decision sciences research in public policy. This will include examples for empirically evaluated guidelines about science communication, as well as how interdisciplinary teams of social scientists currently help governments understanding individual judgments and behaviors, aiming to improve the design of their political interventions through empirical research. These are for example the “Behavioral Insight Unit” from the UK, or the unit “Besser Entscheiden” installed by the chancellors’ office of the German government. Drawing on knowledge acquired during the seminar, we will compare their different approaches and then discuss when, how and by whom it is (in)appropriate to steer individual behavior into a specific direction. This seminar requires individual course work by reading several empirical research articles and discussing them with others. Sessions will involve a high percentage of collaborative work in groups as well as student-led discussions and presentations. The term paper will focus on an empirical intervention for shaping environmental communications or behaviors.