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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Brian Lickel

Second Advisor

Ezra Markowitz

Third Advisor

Jeffrey Starns

Fourth Advisor

Brian Schaffner

Subject Categories

Social Psychology


In the case of responding to climate change and related environmental problems, opinions about the best course of action have become starkly polarized along ideological lines. The identity-protective cognition thesis posits that when individuals experience a sense of challenge to these identities, they are motivated to engage in cognitive shortcuts and other reasoning processes to protect these identities against threat. In this research, I discuss three investigations into identity-protective cognition in the context of responding to environmental problems, applying the broader identity-protective cognition framework to a diverse set of theoretical and practical questions. Chapter 2 highlights research exploring the effect of motivated reasoning on responses to natural disasters linked with climate change. Chapter 3 looks at how brand and environmental identities influence responses to corporate environmental scandals that are personally relevant and require individual-level action. Chapter 4 extends this research paradigm by exploring public responses to visual imagery used to depict climate change across three countries, while also examining how identity-protective processes shape these responses. In addition to the theoretical and practical contributions for environmental engagement, explicit emphasis is placed on the use of full Bayesian inference for quantitative environmental decision making research. Implications for theory, methodology, and practice are considered.