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Description: Understanding the psychological causes of variation in climate change belief and pro-environmental behaviour remains an urgent challenge for the social sciences. The "cooperative phenotype" is a stable psychological preference for cooperating in social dilemmas that involve a tension between individual and collective interest. Since climate change poses a social dilemma on a global scale, this issue may evoke similar psychological processes as smaller social dilemmas. Here, we investigate the relationships between the cooperative phenotype and climate change belief and behaviour with a representative sample of New Zealanders (N = 897). By linking behaviour in a suite of economic games to self-reported climate attitudes, we show robust positive associations between the cooperative phenotype and both climate change belief and pro-environmental behaviour. Furthermore, our structural equation models support a motivated reasoning account in which the relationship between the cooperative phenotype and pro-environmental behaviour is mediated by climate change belief. These findings suggest that common psychological mechanisms underlie cooperation in both micro-scale social dilemmas and larger-scale social dilemmas like climate change.

License: CC-By Attribution 4.0 International


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