Objective Perceptions of Climate-related Risks

Using ocular tracking technology to better understand how individuals percieve climate-related risks to coastal resources

Nearly all research focused on understanding perceptions of climate-related risks to coastal resources has used data collected via mail surveys, online surveys or in-depth qualitative interviews. To compliment previous research, this study focuses on objective perceptions of climate-related risks to coastal resources as measured by respondents’ gaze behavior when viewing images describing or depicting climate-related impacts to coastal resources. We utilize data collected from a survey and an ocular tracking session to measure perceptions of climate-related risks to coastal resources. We also compare the gaze behavior of liberals and conservatives when viewing an infographic and a digital photograph illustrating climate-related impacts to coastal resources; these included impacts to: 1) abiotic resources; 2) biotic resources; 3) built infrastructure; and 4) recreation opportunities. Survey data indicate liberal participants believed climate-related risks to all four types of impacts were more serious than conservative participants did. However, ocular tracking data revealed both liberal and conservative participants spent an equivalent amount of time viewing the four types of impacts. Consequently, differences in the extent to which liberals and conservatives perceive climate-related risks to coastal resources may be attributable to different valuation weights individuals within both groups assign to specific impacts. Liberal participants also noticed impacts to biotic resources faster than conservative participants. Conversely, conservative participants noticed impacts to built infrastructure faster than liberal participants. The practical implications of these findings are noteworthy: climate change communicators should target messages based on the predominant political ideology of their audience or include both biotic and built infrastructure impacts in their messages to capture wider audiences.


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