Subproject Psychology

Individual and social responses to climate engineering from a complex problem solving point of view


Climate Change as a complex problem

Climate as a system influenced and controlled by men opens the broad field of questions related to the human understanding of complex systems, especially their abilities to identify and control these systems. From a psychological point of view, complex systems are characterized by (a) their complexity which requires information reduction in light of bounded human rationality, (b) their connectivity between the system variables which requires systems analysis and the identification of major and minor effects, (c) their intransparency which requires collection of missing information, (d) their dynamics which requires assumptions about temporal developments, and (e) polytely (=many goals) which requires the balance between possibly heterogenous goals. Based on these factors determining human understanding of complex systems, we evaluate risks and chances of specific interventions in light of our central values and the values of our culture.




Our Research

On the psychological part of the research program, we focus on two main research questions: (1) Which difficulties may occur, if naive subjects are confronted with the complex problem "climate change"? (2) What are the individual and social responses on different climate engineering measures?



(1) The first question refers to the ability of naive subjects to identify the important factors leading to global warming and to predict future development of climate in hypothetical scenarios. Subjects will work on a computer based problem solving scenario that implies the actual climate situation (e.g. variables like carbon dioxide emissions, carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere and temperature are included). We will examine the correctness of their mental models and predictions as well as frequently produced mistakes. Knowing what are the problems in naive subjects understanding of global warming is a prerequisite for the evaluation of individual responses on climate engineering measures.



(2) The second question addresses the broad issue of risk perception, especially in respect to global risks which are assessed differently to local or individual risks. It is intended to evaluate the risks of climate engineering in the context of other global risks within society (e.g. financial crisis). Furthermore, we will focus on the factor of polytely in research on complex problem solving, namely, how to come to a problem solution, which seems fair to all participants. Information will be presented by means of scenario techniques, that means, presenting a problem together with different solution proposals.



Sascha Wüstenberg

Editor: office
Latest Revision: 2018-05-23