Doctoral Dissertation Research: Thinking ahead to do better now: Legacy-focused cognition and its link to environmental sustainability

Project: Research project

Project Details


The omnipresent issue of climate variability has brought the importance of intergenerational stewardship to light, and environmental sustainability has become one of the most public and pressing intergenerational challenges of the 21st century. Still, it remains difficult for people to truly grasp how actions in the present can create negative consequences for those in the distant future. Thus, motivating people to be less selfish in the present and more generous toward the future is a fundamental step in safeguarding the well-being of future generations. Exploring motivations for this kind of intergenerational selflessness via the present project has multi-faceted scientific significance, from contributing to the scientific understanding of legacy-focused thinking and its link to environmental sustainability to demonstrating the advantages of using cutting edge computational methods in social science research. Furthermore, this project informs how a deeply rooted psychological motivation—the motivation to establish a posthumous legacy—can be leveraged to promote environmental health and ensure a healthy and sustainable world that generations can enjoy for many years to come. Although prior studies have demonstrated that reflecting on one’s posthumous legacy promotes concerns and behaviors related to environmental sustainability, the details of these reflections and effects remain unclear and underexplored. Across two online survey studies, the research team uses a mix of cutting-edge computational and traditional statistical techniques to illuminate what people are thinking when they report their desired posthumous legacy (Research Question 1), how these themes may differ between demographic groups (Research Question 2), and which themes are positively associated with environmental sustainability concerns and behaviors (Research Question 3). Showing how advancements in computational techniques can aid social scientific research via efficiency and scalability may inspire future researchers to adopt similar approaches. Additionally, insights gained through the project aid future researchers and public health organizations when developing/testing messages that can effectively motivate sustainability concerns and behaviors.This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
Effective start/end date3/1/242/28/25


  • National Science Foundation: $38,897.00


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