A recent University of Michigan study found that people who are less empathetic and sympathetic in general are also less affected when viewing photographs of environmental harm.
Adjustments to policies that address climate change may be constrained by ideological differences. Researchers and professionals frequently arouse people’s concern by appealing to their empathy.
The study found that some people, particularly those who are more ideologically conservative and less pro-environmental, seem to be less emotionally affected by environmental degradation.
Logan Bickel, a doctoral student at the University of Michigan, and Stephanie Preston, a psychology professor, studied more than 600 individuals’ emotional reactions in a series of online studies conducted in the United States.
People who were unconcerned while seeing images of environmental harm—such as oil spills on fire in the gulf—were similarly unconcerned when seeing images of infants in distress, police officers in trouble, injured athletes, wounded soldiers, and even rotting food.
More “impassive” persons reported feeling less empathy for people in daily life, being less pro-environment, and being less impressed by nature, which is consistent with this lack of contagious suffering. According to the study, this group also reacted less favourably to photos of contented children, ice cream, and wads of cash.
According to the study’s findings, some people’s lack of environmental care may not be primarily political in nature or indicate a general disinterest in the environment. Instead, Preston added, it is a feature of their wider emotional range.
Given that our sense of risk and decisions are heavily influenced by emotions, she claimed that more aloof people are less likely to commit resources to this crisis’s escalating slow-burn.
Logan argued that in order to reach people who are resistant to emotional appeals, it is important to take into account the differences in people’s emotional profiles.