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Role of social psychology in making people understand the implication of global warming

Introduction-Role of social psychology in making people understand the implication of global warming

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It won’t be incorrect to say that an individual might have free choices but these choices are significantly affected by the social structure they live in. Every minute element of the social setting affects their decision, perception, and belief system. Social psychology is a study of the influence, thinking, and behavior of a person in a social setting. It covers the elements such as schooling, members in home, community, nationality, and intrapersonal elements like cognitive skills. Global warming is not a contemporary issue but it has been in focus from past decades because the results are felt by humankind (Ten Have et al., 2018). The uneven climatic change and increased frequency of catastrophes has attracted the attention of people towards its root cause. The study encompasses how the social structure exhorts individuals to see it as a serious issue and how it can be used as a tool to make people act more carefully and decide what is right for nature and themselves as well. The evidence will be supported by theories such as cognitive and intrapersonal social psychology that assesses the innate behavior, perception, and decision making of an individual affected by the social setting he lives in. It will showcase the use of social impact in exhorting people to view global warming as a severe issue affecting their health, surrounding, and most importantly the earth (Hansen, Saridakis, and Benson, 2018).

Understanding social psychology using theories

Social psychology theories will help to understand the system of evolution of social thinking, behavior and influence on one’s perception regarding different situations. We will discuss Cognitive and intrapersonal theory to examine how internal elements such as thoughts,memory, perception, and decisions of a person are formulated on the basis of information they get from their surroundings. ?wi?tkowski and Dompnier, (2017) state that schemas that are the storehouse of information enables a person to interact with a situation or an event in a definite manner. These schemas are in bits of millions and billions of information pieces. Lindström et al., (2018) state that a positive social environment is conducive for processing information faster and acting in a more productive manner. Interaction, perception, and decision making is influenced by the system that is followed by the cognitive learning of a human being. For instance, global warming is not considered a serious issue because people don’t talk about this issue in their daily lives and discuss it in-depth. Environmental issues seldom come up in a conversation that makes inadequate schemas. People know that an issue exists but due to lack of emphasis on the subject, they tend to forgo this discussion and it does not form a behavior that would support actions to prevent global warming. This theory studies the formation of schemas and building memory, perception, and behavior that further results in action that people are willing to take (Taufique and Vaithianathan, 2018).

 Theory of Planned Behavior Framework is another theory that can be studied to determine the role of social psychology in impacting understanding about a global issue.When WTO was formed in 1995, it was criticized and protestors argued that it will increase unemployment as much of the work was being outsourced. This is an example of control belief which is one of the three beliefs on which the theory of Planned behavior is based on (Si et al., 2019). The factor here was the outsourcing of jobs and the belief was that it will snatch jobs from the local people and it caused people to become outrageous and fearful that was visible in their actions and protests. When people perceive that global warming is the factor of many of their problems such as pollution and climatic change, they might behave in a manner that aids the issue. ?wi?tkowski and Dompnier, (2017) promote that salient beliefs that are easily accessible by the memory of an individual forms the behavior. Behavioral beliefs, normative beliefs, and control beliefs are three major factors in forming their attitude and perception regarding a situation. Other indirect elements include education, motivation, and intelligence that impacts the belief system of an individual. Osama Bin Laden and APJ Abdul Kalam were both muslims and both were learned but their beliefs were different and therefore their behavior and actions were entirely different. One destroyed lives and the other led a nation and contributed to the aerospace industry of the nation. Similarly, the belief pattern is the foundation of one’s behavior and attitude towards the situation. Behavioral beliefs sprout out of a person such as eating non-veg because it is tasty and one has been eating it from childhood. Gössling, Scott, and Hall, (2020) state that normative beliefs are those curated on the expectations of others like one must not consume non-veg because it leads to massacre of animals and the control belief is based on the implication of outer factors on beliefs. When people perceive global warming as a factor that will impede their lifestyle and will facilitate problems such as pollution, this will impact their attitude and the outcome will be reflected in their behavior. Where there is scarcity of water, they use it judiciously and do not waste water and where there is abundant water supply, they tend to waste it, this is due to different control beliefs. The factor in both cases is the water supply that has influenced their belief system regarding availability of water. Theory of Planned Behavior helps to distinguish between behavior based on a belief system that includes all the three salient beliefs, control belief, normative belief, and behavioral belief.

 The most influential theory in the context of social issues is the social impact theory. It is based on three elements which are power of the group/social setting, the number of people in a group, and physical and psychological distance between members of the group. Wann and James (2018) state that this theory has been significant in determining how social setting can influence understanding of a person regarding a global issue. A person gets influenced if the thing is told or propelled by more people in the group. If the majority of the people support a cause then the individual will follow them and if only few people support the cause, the individual might forgo to support it. It is also observed that people tend to follow influential and powerful people. When Christano Ronaldo kept the coke bottle aside, the value of its share fell drastically. It was presumed that many might not consume coke after this incident. When Elon Musk tweeted that he would accept crypto currency, the market value surged immediately. Wann and James (2018) view this theory as a practical piece of work that defines how the human mind and perceptions are influenced. The empirical studies show that people tend to change their perception and decide on a situation based on these three major elements.

Implication on understanding regarding Global warming

Global warming might not be a new issue but its implications are more severe than before. The climatic change is not only seen but felt across the globe. Forest fires, melting glaciers and an increased number of floods are all consequences of global warming. Social psychology is not only imperative to make people understand the severity of the global issue but it also encompasses theories to understand how this can be done (Hansen, Saridakis, and Benson, 2018). The first theory describes the role of social setting to facilitate or impede one’s understanding. People living in forests live in harmony with nature because they are surrounded by nature and understand its importance. They make their food and home using natural things and therefore, preserving forest is important for them. Most of the destruction has been caused by people living in urban areas and factories in these places (Lindström et al., 2018). People are not able to connect with nature and fail to realize the implication of their choices on the environment. Hence, we see piles of plastic waste in the landfill but none around the forest. Not many people know that the paper cups that end up in the landfill produce methane gas which is responsible for trapping the heat in the atmosphere and these same paper cups are thought of as better alternatives to plastics. Global warming has multifold effects that can be felt across the countries. Rising sea level has caused more humidity and rains that eventually lead to floods. The depletion of the ozone layer has introduced many skin diseases. These effects were taught in schools but there are no influential actions taken on macro level and negligible attention is given to this issue by individuals due to lack of schemas that hold information. We do not talk about global warming and its factors in our informal communication and therefore we do not realize its severity (Groening, Sarkis, and Zhu, 2018).

Theory of planned behavior can also help us understand how the general public views global warming. When global warming will be seen as a factor of control belief, it might get the due attention from the public. What is happening now is that these changes are not felt by people on the individual level. People tend to choose a sophisticated lifestyle that disconnects them from reality (Groening, Sarkis, and Zhu, 2018). Sitting inside the AC room will not give you the reality check of the temperature rise outside. This temperature rise has caused fires in forests but we cannot see that and therefore it fails to impact our belief system. People will choose the means that satisfy their immediate needs and therefore they fail to understand how their small actions taken on an individual level affect the whole environment, whether it is shopping in plastic bags or using ACs and refrigerators. The normative belief helps in building principles that would help prevent these actions such as turning off lights and AC when you move out of the room.It might be an independent choice of an individual but when he is taught to act in a certain way, he forms a belief system around it (Si et al., 2019).

The third and the most important theory that can be used in this context is the social impact theory that can help to form a structure that changes the pattern of perceiving and acting in a certain situation and taking actions that prevent global warming instead of intensifying it. When more people raise their voice in unison against the issue, people will pay attention that will influence them to take necessary steps or atleast think cautiously while taking any step. It was found out that people reacted and responded to actions performed by their favorite celebrities and tried to imitate it (Hansen, Saridakis, and Benson, 2018). Nations have gathered together to achieve a zero carbon emission goal to prevent the earth getting hotter and lead to severe problems to mankind and the environment. When the government started taking actions that would prevent global warming, people readily accepted to participate. Around the globe, there are many startups that aim at making environment-friendly products (Groening, Sarkis, and Zhu, 2018). However, due to cost considerations, these products are not widely accepted but it showcases that people are willing to switch if it fits their budget. So this interest to switch to eco-friendly products and packaging is because powerful people and a large group of the community understands that this is a severe problem (Gössling, Scott, and Hall, 2020) .

Methodological issues

The study was conducted using random sampling of one region and the issue with applied psychology research is use of inferences. As the study was conducted on only one set of participants, the findings could have differed. When conducting research in psychology, human dynamism is ignored as there can be different observations that cannot be put together to form a pattern (Hartley, 2018). Therefore, it becomes really difficult to form a pattern and study the theory accordingly. Moreover, the findings are manipulated to study it from the point of view of a predetermined framework that does not always provide a true image. Methodological issues can arise from the length of the research and use of data (Ten Have et al., 2018). Ths happens in descriptive data wherein it is vital but sometimes not possible to add all factors and elements that can affect the psychological study to length of the study which might be limited along with time and cost constraint. Longitudinal research is time consuming and when these are conducted on small group, it fails to become relevant inference to study the whole population (?wi?tkowski and Dompnier, 2017).When studying the impact of social psychology in impacting understanding and acknowledgement regarding a global issue, a non-biased and more concise report would consider a good number participants from different regions of the world and abundant of data, that would make the research lengthy, complex, and costly. These issues exist while conducting research in psychology on a global level (Hartley, 2018).


It is quite clear that there are elements which when put together in a social system can influence the human belief system and make them understand the severity of a global issue.

  1. Strengthen the belief system- As a society, people need to emphasize on actions that prevent global warming such as using plastic and paper bags to the minimum or using reusable containers. Carpooling must become a trend and all actions which on an individual level participate in preventing global warming must be taken. When teaching in a classroom setting, visual depiction of the whole ecosystem and environment can be helpful to make children realize how bad global warming is for the whole humankind. This will also aid their behavioral belief system and instill a sense for protecting the environment. Activities like planting trees can also help students to connect with nature (Taufique and Vaithianathan, 2018).
  2. Like freedom fighters who got independence by coming together and raising their voices and acting in unison against colonial rule, people must come together to fight global warming too. Forming a strong consortium and impacting the behavior of individuals to act in an eco-friendly manner can bring the needed change (Ten Have et al., 2018).
  3. Government needs to invest in making eco-friendly means cheaper by giving subsidies to companies that make biodegradable disposal containers so that people can have access to it (Taufique and Vaithianathan, 2018).


Social psychology can help form a favorable human behavior and attitude to bring change on a global level. In this report, three theories are studied to understand what constitutes perception, attitude, and belief system. Theory of planned behavior includes the belief system as the core of human behavior while the theory of cognitive social psychology propels the use of schemas in forming memory, perceptin, and ability to make decisions based on information stored as schemas. The social impact theory suggests that the psychology of people can be impacted by powerful influential people, a group, or the distance among people in a group. To make people acknowledge the severity of global warming, the report embeds recommendations based on findings.


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  • Groening, C., Sarkis, J. and Zhu, Q., 2018. Green marketing consumer-level theory review: A compendium of applied theories and further research directions. Journal of Cleaner Production, 172, pp.1848-1866.
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