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You vs. us: Framing adaptation behavior in terms of private or social benefits

September 16, 2022

Private actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change may have benefits to both the individual and society. In some cases, an individual may be motivated by appeals that highlight benefits to others, rather than to oneself. We test whether such prosocial framing influences information-seeking behavior to address wildfire risk among homeowners. In a field experiment across ten communities in western Colorado, property owners (n = 2977) received a postcard from their local fire department highlighting the impact of risk mitigation to either “your property” (private benefits) or “our community” (social benefits). The postcard directed recipients to visit a personalized webpage on wildfire risk. Overall, 10.5% of property owners visited their personalized risk webpage. There was little difference in webpage visitation between those who received the social (11.3%) rather than the private (9.7%) benefits message (χ2 = 1.74, p = 0.19). However, response may depend on a property owner’s relationship to the community. Those who reside within the community (as opposed to out-of-town owners) or who were in an evacuation zone during a recent wildfire were more likely to visit their webpages after receiving the social benefits message. How homeowners view their contributions to shared risk and whether simple changes in messaging influence prosocial behavior can inform efforts to address climate-exacerbated hazards.

Publication Year 2022
Title You vs. us: Framing adaptation behavior in terms of private or social benefits
DOI 10.1007/s10584-022-03400-4
Authors Hilary Byerly Flint, Paul Cada, Patricia A. Champ, Jamie Gomez, Danny Margoles, James Meldrum, Hannah Brenkert-Smith
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Climatic Change
Index ID 70236831
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Fort Collins Science Center