Laypeople’s Affective Images of Energy Transition Pathways

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This paper explores the public perception of energy transition pathways, that is,
individual behaviors, political strategies, and technologies that aim to foster a shift
toward a low-carbon and sustainable society. We employed affective image analysis,
a structured method based on free associations to explore positive and negative
connotations and affective meanings. Affective image analysis allows to tap into
affective meanings and to compare these meanings across individuals, groups, and
cultures. Data were collected among university students in Norway (n = 106) and
Germany (n = 125). A total of 25 energy transition pathway components were
presented to the participants who generated one free association to each component
by indicating the first that came to mind when thinking of the component. Participants
evaluated their associations by indicating whether they considered each association
to be positive, negative, or neutral. These associations were coded by two research
assistants, which resulted in 2650 coded responses in the Norwegian sample and
2846 coded responses in the German sample. Results for the two samples are
remarkably similar. The most frequent type of association is a general evaluation
of the component, for example concerning its valence or its importance. The
second most frequent types of association are requirements needed to implement
the component (e.g., national policies) and consequences of the component (e.g.,
personal or environmental consequences). Individual behaviors (e.g., walking) elicited
thoughts about consequences and requirements, but also about the prevalence of such
behaviors. Associations in response to technologies (e.g., carbon capture and storage)
mainly referred to some descriptive aspect of the technology. Evaluations of the free
responses were predominantly positive, but some components also elicited negative
associations, especially nuclear power. The free associations that people generate
suggest that they have vague and unspecific knowledge about energy transition
pathways, that they process them in an automatic and intuitive rather than deliberative
manner, and that they have clear affective evaluations of the presented components.
ZeitschriftFrontiers in Psychology
Anzahl der Seiten15
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 10.10.2018