Are we too Optimistic to bother Saving the Planet?: The Relationship between Optimism, Eye Gaze and Negative Images of Climate Change

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Abstract

This study represents the first investigation of the relationship between level of dispositional optimism and gaze preferences towards or away from negative images of climate change. It has been claimed by Isaacowitz that optimists wear ‘rose-tinted glasses’ in their processing of information about the world. This study tested whether level of optimism may be implicated in our current inertia with regard to climate change, and whether optimists quite literally refuse to see possible dangers. Participants’ eye gaze was tracked as they looked at stimulus arrays containing positive, negative or neutral images. The negative images were iconic representations of climate change/industrial pollution. The participants’ level of dispositional optimism was also assessed. The results were significant but in the opposite direction to that predicted by Isaacowitz’s research. The optimists gazed significantly more than the pessimists at the negative images, and significantly less at the positive images. There was also a significant correlation between level of optimism and proportion of time spent gazing at the negative images. These findings open up some intriguing possibilities. Could we, in fact, use optimism level, and the fact that optimists are more prepared to attend to climate change images, in the direct fight against climate change?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-256
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability
Volume7
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Keywords

  • Climate Change
  • Dispositional Optimism
  • eye tracking
  • Sustainability
  • consumer attitudes

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