Predictors of Visual Attention to Climate Change Images: An Eye-Tracking Study

Journal of Environmental Psychology. DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvp.2017.03.001

Posted: 27 Nov 2017 Last revised: 20 Dec 2017

Date Written: August 1, 2017


Attentional engagement with climate change is an important precondition for intentional climate-friendly behavior. However, not much is known about the determinants of an individuals' implicit willingness to attend to this global problem. This study investigates two potentially relevant predictors of implicit attention to climate change: a) pro-environmental orientation as a trait factor and b) experimentally induced stress as a state factor. We expected positive effects of pro-environmental orientation and negative effects of stress.

Seventy-one male participants with either high or low pro-environmental orientation were randomly assigned to a stress or control condition. Afterwards, they viewed a series of climate change images and negative control images, which were presented simultaneously with positive and neutral distractors. Attentional deployment to the different stimulus categories was assessed using eye-tracking technology.

Participants with high pro-environmental orientation spent more time looking at climate change as well as other negative images, compared to participants with low pro-environmental orientation. This result suggests that pro-environmental individuals might be characterized by a general propensity to attend to negative information. Furthermore, stress reduced attentional deployment to both climate change and negative control images, which might indicate decreased interest in self-transcendent problems and/or increased efforts of emotion regulation under stress. In summary, these findings constitute first evidence for trait and state predictors of attentional engagement with climate change.

Keywords: Climate Change, Eye-Tracking, Attention, Stress, Emotion Regulation, Trier Social Stress Test

Suggested Citation

Sollberger, Silja and Bernauer, Thomas and Ehlert, Ulrike, Predictors of Visual Attention to Climate Change Images: An Eye-Tracking Study (August 1, 2017). Journal of Environmental Psychology. DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvp.2017.03.001. Available at SSRN:

Silja Sollberger (Contact Author)

Independent ( email )

No Address Available

Thomas Bernauer

ETH Zurich ( email )

Center for Comparative and International Studies
Building IFW, office 45.1, Haldeneggsteig 4
Zurich 8092, 8092
+41 44 632 6466 (Phone)
+41 44 632 1289 (Fax)


Ulrike Ehlert

Independent ( email )

No Address Available

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics