McDonald, R., Chai, H-Y, & Newell, B. R. (2015). Personal experience and the ‘psychological distance’ of climate change: An integrative review. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 44109-118.


Studies examining personal experiences of climate change-related events highlight the potential to encourage climate action by framing it as happening now, in your neighborhood, and affecting people like you – that is, psychologically close. We compare this literature to studies that examine psychological distance. The review reveals a disconnect: while studies of personal experience suggest merits of reducing psychological distance, other studies present a more nuanced picture in which psychological proximity does not always lead to more concern about or action on climate change. Despite its emphasis, psychological distance has not been widely studied in experimental work in the climate change context, and there is a need for more systematic examination of its effects across a range of mitigation and adaptation actions. Further, our review identifies potential pitfalls associated with decreasing psychological distance, such as fear and avoidance. Finally, we provide preliminary recommendations for optimal ways to bring climate change “home.”