Activating the legacy motive mitigates intergenerational discounting in the climate game

Mark Hurlstone, Annabel Price, Susie Wang, Zoe Leviston, Iain Walker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Climate change will have dangerous impacts on future generations. Accordingly, people in the present have an obligation to make sacrifices for the benefit of future others. However, research on temporal and social discounting shows that people are short-sighted and selfish—they prefer immediate over delayed benefits, and they prefer benefits for themselves over others. Discounting over long-term time horizons is known as intergenerational discounting, and is a major obstacle to climate action. Here, we examine whether persuasive messages that activate the legacy motive—the desire to build a positive legacy—can increase the willingness of current actors to make sacrifices for future generations. Using a climate change public goods game, we find that when the benefits of cooperation accrue to decision makers in the present, high levels of cooperation are sustained, whereas when the benefits accrue to future generations, intergenerational discounting makes cooperation elusive. Crucially, when the legacy motive is activated—by promoting death awareness, feelings of power asymmetry, and intergenerational reciprocity—intergenerational discounting is attenuated, and cooperation is restored. Our results suggest climate action can be fostered by framing climate change as an intergenerational dilemma, and by crafting persuasive messages that activate people’s drive
to leave a positive legacy.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGlobal Environmental Change-Human and Policy Dimensions
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2020

Fingerprint

climate
climate change
present
asymmetry
decision maker
obligation
death
co-operation
time
decision

Cite this

@article{d5c39b7cd16b4175858e0dfb4ab141b8,
title = "Activating the legacy motive mitigates intergenerational discounting in the climate game",
abstract = "Climate change will have dangerous impacts on future generations. Accordingly, people in the present have an obligation to make sacrifices for the benefit of future others. However, research on temporal and social discounting shows that people are short-sighted and selfish—they prefer immediate over delayed benefits, and they prefer benefits for themselves over others. Discounting over long-term time horizons is known as intergenerational discounting, and is a major obstacle to climate action. Here, we examine whether persuasive messages that activate the legacy motive—the desire to build a positive legacy—can increase the willingness of current actors to make sacrifices for future generations. Using a climate change public goods game, we find that when the benefits of cooperation accrue to decision makers in the present, high levels of cooperation are sustained, whereas when the benefits accrue to future generations, intergenerational discounting makes cooperation elusive. Crucially, when the legacy motive is activated—by promoting death awareness, feelings of power asymmetry, and intergenerational reciprocity—intergenerational discounting is attenuated, and cooperation is restored. Our results suggest climate action can be fostered by framing climate change as an intergenerational dilemma, and by crafting persuasive messages that activate people’s driveto leave a positive legacy.",
author = "Mark Hurlstone and Annabel Price and Susie Wang and Zoe Leviston and Iain Walker",
year = "2020",
language = "English",
journal = "Global Environmental Change",
issn = "0959-3780",
publisher = "Elsevier",

}

Activating the legacy motive mitigates intergenerational discounting in the climate game. / Hurlstone, Mark; Price, Annabel; Wang, Susie; Leviston, Zoe; Walker, Iain.

In: Global Environmental Change-Human and Policy Dimensions, 2020.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

TY - JOUR

T1 - Activating the legacy motive mitigates intergenerational discounting in the climate game

AU - Hurlstone, Mark

AU - Price, Annabel

AU - Wang, Susie

AU - Leviston, Zoe

AU - Walker, Iain

PY - 2020

Y1 - 2020

N2 - Climate change will have dangerous impacts on future generations. Accordingly, people in the present have an obligation to make sacrifices for the benefit of future others. However, research on temporal and social discounting shows that people are short-sighted and selfish—they prefer immediate over delayed benefits, and they prefer benefits for themselves over others. Discounting over long-term time horizons is known as intergenerational discounting, and is a major obstacle to climate action. Here, we examine whether persuasive messages that activate the legacy motive—the desire to build a positive legacy—can increase the willingness of current actors to make sacrifices for future generations. Using a climate change public goods game, we find that when the benefits of cooperation accrue to decision makers in the present, high levels of cooperation are sustained, whereas when the benefits accrue to future generations, intergenerational discounting makes cooperation elusive. Crucially, when the legacy motive is activated—by promoting death awareness, feelings of power asymmetry, and intergenerational reciprocity—intergenerational discounting is attenuated, and cooperation is restored. Our results suggest climate action can be fostered by framing climate change as an intergenerational dilemma, and by crafting persuasive messages that activate people’s driveto leave a positive legacy.

AB - Climate change will have dangerous impacts on future generations. Accordingly, people in the present have an obligation to make sacrifices for the benefit of future others. However, research on temporal and social discounting shows that people are short-sighted and selfish—they prefer immediate over delayed benefits, and they prefer benefits for themselves over others. Discounting over long-term time horizons is known as intergenerational discounting, and is a major obstacle to climate action. Here, we examine whether persuasive messages that activate the legacy motive—the desire to build a positive legacy—can increase the willingness of current actors to make sacrifices for future generations. Using a climate change public goods game, we find that when the benefits of cooperation accrue to decision makers in the present, high levels of cooperation are sustained, whereas when the benefits accrue to future generations, intergenerational discounting makes cooperation elusive. Crucially, when the legacy motive is activated—by promoting death awareness, feelings of power asymmetry, and intergenerational reciprocity—intergenerational discounting is attenuated, and cooperation is restored. Our results suggest climate action can be fostered by framing climate change as an intergenerational dilemma, and by crafting persuasive messages that activate people’s driveto leave a positive legacy.

M3 - Article

JO - Global Environmental Change

JF - Global Environmental Change

SN - 0959-3780

ER -