Below is my Independent Study Proposal. This includes a description of the project, my timeline for completion, helpful resources, and more!

Psychological Attitudes towards Climate Change: An Independent Study

Content Advisor: Ms. Caruso

Purpose: To investigate the psychological and neurological causes behind climate change skepticism and inaction and the motivations for action against climate change. By gaining a better understanding of these underlying causes, my goal is to develop methods to utilize our psychological habits in order to create meaningful change!

Description: During this study, I will research the psychological factors that drive attitudes towards climate change through various methods, including but not limited to examining scientific literature, exploring media, conducting interviews, and interacting with and observing the behaviors of influential members of society as well as those around me. I would love to connect this study with the work we’ve done in the Sustainability Committee (perhaps by examining potential causes for past successes and failures and proposing new initiatives that take psychological and neurological processes into account) as well as with this coming year’s sustainability course and other environmental initiatives around the school. Likewise, my goal is to build a final product that motivates members of my community to more actively work towards combating climate change!

My plan is to begin the study at the end of June and finish the week of August 23rd, creating a timeline of about 10 weeks. By devoting 8-10 hours a week (1-2 hours a day) over this period, I would be able to devote an equal or likely greater amount of time as I would to an Independent Study conducted over a semester of school. I would also like to request a stipend for my Independent Study content advisor (Ms. Caruso) from the Jack Linger Independent Study Fund, as I believe doing so would bring to life Jack’s mission to empower students, faculty, and the Durham Academy community to fully embrace the opportunities around them no matter the time of year.

Driving Questions: 

Why do we prioritize other factors, such as the economy, over our environment?

Do certain patterns of thinking prevent us from fully grasping the impacts of climate change? 

What can we gain from understanding the causes behind our attitudes towards the environment?

How can we leverage our patterns of thinking to make a bigger change on the environment?

List of Resources and Activities:


June: Develop a primary understanding of how psychology impacts climate change

  • First few days: compile resources
    • reach out and gain access to any resources that aren’t directly available
      • Email people to interview
      • Initiate conversations to determine other methods of accessing resources
      • Explore journals, magazines, libraries in depth
  • Next few weeks: explore resources and draw conclusions
    • Schedule time to interact with various different types of resources
    • Take notes
    • Write down any reflections/thoughts!
  • Based on this research, identify broad goals for final product

July: Explore more deeply how these psychological patterns apply to real world examples

  • First few weeks: continue researching and compiling data/notes
  • Next few weeks: find real world examples and apply psychological concepts
    • Explore resources that go more in depth on specific examples
    • Pick interesting examples and apply concepts to them
      • Discuss these with content advisor and an expert in the topic if possible!

August: Draft methods to leverage human behavior towards driving change

  • First few weeks: identify specific goals for final product
    • What actions should participants be motivated to take?
  • Next few weeks: develop a methodology to achieve these goals
    • Design activity
    • Run trials and adapt based on response
  • Finish final product by end of August/beginning of September!

Mechanism for showing progress: weekly reports of the information I learned that week, potentially including methods to reinforce that knowledge, such as diagrams, tutorials, or quizzes

Expected form of Final Product: Activity or presentation with psychological components designed to encourage climate action among peers and other members of community