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Psychology of Environmental Law$
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Arden Rowell and Kenworthey Bilz

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9781479812301

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: September 2021

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479812301.001.0001

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(p.31) 2 Diffusion
Psychology of Environmental Law

Arden Rowell

Kenworthey Bilz

NYU Press

In this chapter, we present research in psychology to explain how and why effects that are diffuse through space and/or time are so hard for people to perceive, respond to, and appreciate. The cognitive and emotional barriers people face in addressing diffuse environmental impacts have profound implications both for how environmental law operates, and for how it might be made more effective. This chapter proceeds by first discussing the general phenomenon of diffuse impacts, focusing on the psychology of externalities. The chapter then explores the cognitive and emotional/motivational psychological phenomena that are likely to affect the way that people perceive, process, and respond to diffuse environmental impacts. It highlights the importance of latency, spatial distance, identifiability, and salience in addressing diffuse harms.

Keywords:   diffusion, externalities, latency, distance, unidentifiability, salience

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