Untangling the components of hope: Increasing pathways (not agency) explains the success of an intervention that increases educators’ climate change discussions

Nathaniel Geiger, Karen Gasper, Janet K. Swim, John Fraser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Previous research suggests that many who are concerned about climate change self-silence on the topic; failing to engage in regular discussion about climate change despite their desires to do so. This research examines how a communication training program for environmental educators working at aquariums, zoos, and national parks might boost this population's willingness to discuss climate change with visitors via increasing hope. Using hope theory, we examined whether changes in the two components of hope – agency (the will; sense of successful determination) and pathways (the ways; the perception that one can generate a diversity of routes to one's goal, even when encountering barriers) – mediated increases in participants' self-reported discussion of climate change following the training program. Participants (environmental educators; N = 211) completed surveys before, immediately after (mediators only), and six months following (outcome only) a training program. Although having greater agency predicted frequency of climate change discussions (i.e., at the between-person level), (within-person) increases in agency did not lead to increases in discussion or mediate the effect of the intervention on discussion. Instead, increases in pathways thinking mediated the effect of the intervention on increased discussion. Our results indicate that, at least among those who already have the desire to discuss climate change more, interventions which instill hope toward such discussions, and specifically, focus on building a greater variety of methods of engaging in the discussions and responding to obstacles (i.e., pathways thinking), have the potential to promote more extensive public discourse on the topic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101366
JournalJournal of Environmental Psychology
Volume66
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2019

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Hope
Climate Change
Education
Research
Communication

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology

Cite this

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title = "Untangling the components of hope: Increasing pathways (not agency) explains the success of an intervention that increases educators’ climate change discussions",
abstract = "Previous research suggests that many who are concerned about climate change self-silence on the topic; failing to engage in regular discussion about climate change despite their desires to do so. This research examines how a communication training program for environmental educators working at aquariums, zoos, and national parks might boost this population's willingness to discuss climate change with visitors via increasing hope. Using hope theory, we examined whether changes in the two components of hope – agency (the will; sense of successful determination) and pathways (the ways; the perception that one can generate a diversity of routes to one's goal, even when encountering barriers) – mediated increases in participants' self-reported discussion of climate change following the training program. Participants (environmental educators; N = 211) completed surveys before, immediately after (mediators only), and six months following (outcome only) a training program. Although having greater agency predicted frequency of climate change discussions (i.e., at the between-person level), (within-person) increases in agency did not lead to increases in discussion or mediate the effect of the intervention on discussion. Instead, increases in pathways thinking mediated the effect of the intervention on increased discussion. Our results indicate that, at least among those who already have the desire to discuss climate change more, interventions which instill hope toward such discussions, and specifically, focus on building a greater variety of methods of engaging in the discussions and responding to obstacles (i.e., pathways thinking), have the potential to promote more extensive public discourse on the topic.",
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