LIMMUD FSU Recharge Presenters 2022

What is Limmud? What are the Principles? Also, learn some of our History and more.

Irina Feygina Social psychologist


Irina Feygina, Ph.D., is a social psychologist who specializes in the behavioral aspects of policy and program development and implementation for climate change mitigation and adaptation, clean technology adoption, energy efficiency, sustainability, and communication. She also uses facilitation tools to support organizations with challenges faced in the climate change setting, including working on conflict and cooperation, strengthening relationships and communication, and overcoming skepticism and supporting engagement. She believes that the climate crisis opens an important opportunity to witness, acknowledge, and work on deeply seated social struggles and systemic inequalities that lie at the root of climate injustice and our inability to take action on climate change. Irina has served as Director of Behavioral Science and Assessment at Climate Central, as a Fellow on the White House Social and Behavioral Sciences Team, and as a AAAS /APA Congressional Fellow in the U.S. Senate. Her doctorate work at New York University explored the systemic and psychological roots of climate change denial. She likes to write about people’s relationship with climate change, and the many things it reveals about our inner lives and the systems we live in. Her articles have been published in social science journals and in New York Magazine, Psychology Today, Scientific American, and others.


The Psychology of Climate Change: Why Do People Accept or Deny Its Reality and How Can We Move Toward Solutions?

Climate change and climate policy remain highly polarizing topics, and constructive exchanges of divergent points of view are rare, making it taboo for casual conversation. Why is that, with its grounding in scientific facts? How can beliefs about scientific issues be so contentious, so personal, and so divisive?

Climate change skepticism and disengagement are rooted in deeply seated human motives to belong, to identify with and feel accepted by groups and communities, and to defend and uphold social and economic systems and ideologies. These tendencies come into conflict with acknowledging the reality of climate change, which is threatening to many aspects of established systems and the status quo. They give rise to motivated cognition processes that result in dismissing evidence for climate change and its anthropogenic causes, and undermine willingness to take mitigative and adaptive action.

Efforts to overcome skepticism and foster engagement need to address, and even harness, these motives, and develop a toolbox of interventions that can be used in communication and program design and implementation in policy, organizational, and educational settings. These include understanding and speaking to people’s needs and realities, presenting local, relevant, and psychologically proximal information, communicating through trusted messengers, supporting bidirectional communication and community engagement, drawing on identity and group dynamics to engage in shared action, and fostering empowerment and efficacy through a focus on solutions which are aligned with needs to protect and uphold the systems people care about.

In this talk, I will review evidence for the role of identity, group belonging, and system justification in motivating climate skepticism, and share findings from climate communication efforts that address these motives to support climate engagement.