School of Psychological Science

Postgraduate Profiles


Susie Wang

Phone: (+61 8) 6488 1420


Start date

Feb 2014

Submission date

Susie Wang

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Climate Change from a Distance: Psychological distance as a predictor of pro-environmental behaviours


Surviving climate change necessitates a change in the way humans live, yet few people appear motivated to alter their behaviours. Though one might believe that it is better to behave in pro-environmental ways, the relationship between reporting the attitude and acting consistently is fickle.

It is often said that climate change is perceived to be a distant phenomenon, where consequences occur in distant places, to other people, beyond our lifetimes. This perception of distance from climate change is captured in the concept of “psychological distance”, which may be used to understand the lack of engagement in climate change related behaviours. Psychological distance conceives human behaviour as a consequence of the effect that various people, objects, events and values have on the individual, relative to how close or far these elements are from the self.

This project aims to study psychological distance from climate change, and its effect on engagement in pro-environmental behaviours.

Why my research is important

Though the notion of climate change being “distant” is familiar, there is little empirical research on the topic. It is necessary to study the role of psychological distance from climate change so that the utility of the concept for climate change engagement is fully explored. The perception of climate change as “close” or “distant” may predict people’s engagement in pro-environmental behaviours, and if so, making climate change “closer” may be a way of engaging people in climate action.

Aside from the imperative need to address climate change, this study has significance for other areas involving human action and motivation. The study of psychological distance, and how perceived distance shapes behaviour is applicable to many contexts where people choose or choose not to act, such as political engagement or involvement in social movements.


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Friday, 23 January, 2015 3:27 PM