Title

Activating the legacy motive mitigates intergenerational discounting in the climate game

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Global Environmental Change

Publisher

Elsevier

School

School of Arts and Humanities

RAS ID

30432

Funders

Climate Adaptation Flagship of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

Comments

Hurlstone, M. J., Price, A., Wang, S., Leviston, Z., & Walker, I. (2020). Activating the legacy motive mitigates intergenerational discounting in the climate game. Global Environmental Change, 60, Article 102008. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2019.102008

Abstract

Climate change will have dangerous impacts on future generations. Accordingly, people in the present have an obligation to make sacrifices for the benefit of future others. However, research on temporal and social discounting shows that people are short-sighted and selfish—they prefer immediate over delayed benefits, and they prefer benefits for themselves over others. Discounting over long-term time horizons is known as intergenerational discounting, and is a major obstacle to climate action. Here, we examine whether persuasive messages that activate the legacy motive—the desire to build a positive legacy—can increase the willingness of current actors to make sacrifices for future generations. Using a climate change public goods game, we find that when the benefits of cooperation accrue to decision makers in the present, high levels of cooperation are sustained, whereas when the benefits accrue to future generations, intergenerational discounting makes cooperation elusive. Crucially, when the legacy motive is activated—by promoting death awareness, feelings of power asymmetry, and intergenerational reciprocity—intergenerational discounting is attenuated, and cooperation is restored. Our results suggest climate action can be fostered by framing climate change as an intergenerational dilemma, and by crafting persuasive messages that activate people's drive to leave a positive legacy.

DOI

10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2019.102008

Access Rights

free_to_read

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