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Unformatted text preview: www.ijsc-online.org | IJSC 3 (2008): 37-95 37 RESEARCH Connie Roser-Renouf & Matthew C. Nisbet THE MEASUREMENT OF KEY BEHAVIORAL SCIENCE CONSTRUCTS IN CLIMATE CHANGE RESEARCH Connie Roser-Renouf, PhD Climate Change Communication Center of Excellence George Mason University & Matthew C. Nisbet, PhD School of Communication American University Abstract The growth and integration of social science research on climate change will be facilitated by careful, consistent measurement of its central constructs. In this pa- per, the relevant psycho-social literature is reviewed, with an eye toward enhanc- ing the quality of measurement. We find that risk perception, a focus of much climate change research, has multiple dimensions that may drive behavior in dif- ferent ways. Values and norms have been assessed by several indices that overlap conceptually, and study findings could be integrated if these overlaps were clari- fied and tested. Climate change knowledge has numerous components, only some of may be essential in the formation of risk perceptions and behavior. Effi- cacy has received little attention by survey researchers, but promises to help ex- plain behaviors and policy preferences. Climate-relevant behaviors are highly complex variables that will require further explication before we fully understand how they may best be measured. Policy preferences have been asked in terms of trade-offs between action and economic impacts, or in terms of specific regula- tions or tax incentives. Keywords measurement, reliability, validity www.ijsc-online.org | IJSC 3 (2008): 37-95 38 RESEARCH Connie Roser-Renouf & Matthew C. Nisbet 1. Introduction The social science literature on climate change is likely to grow quickly over the next sev- eral years, and will be the focus of an interdisciplinary community of survey researchers. Careful, consistent measurement of the most significant variables will assist the integration of studies and improve the validity of our results. Ensuring validity in measurement is particularly important in this research arena, given the high current levels of media attention to our work, and the ideological divide that hin- ders progress in combating climate change. As scholars, if we are weak in our measure- ment, we may in fact only amplify uncertainty about the public dimensions of the debate, slowing progress toward solutions. The recent publication of a study of climate change knowledge and risk perceptions (Kellstedt et al., 2008) illustrates the current influence of social science research in the public opinion debate. The authors of the research concluded that people who know the most about climate change, and who trust science are less concerned about the issue. As we will later discuss, given the weak measure of knowledge and the particular form of percep- tion assessed, the study’s conclusion is highly tentative at best....
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