Meaghan L. Guckian, PhD
Director, Climate Change Education Certificate
Core Faculty, Environmental Studies
Most environmental problems can be characterized as people problems—errors in human decision-making and behavior. As a behavioral scientist with expertise in conservation psychology, communications and decision-making, I am interested in examining how social, psychological and contextual factors interact to influence individual and collective environmental decision-making. I use a variety of methodological techniques and theoretical approaches to answer research questions examining how, for instance, social-psychological mechanisms and processes interact with peoples’ decision-making environments to shape behavior across issues of conservation and sustainability.
My approach to research, teaching and practice is to shed light on how the behavioral sciences can be leveraged to enhance positive societal and ecological outcomes. In part, I spend a lot of time thinking and teaching about why people do the things that they do, particularly in the context of how individuals understand and respond to the pressing environmental challenges facing society. Why do individuals deny climate change? How do we communicate effectively with audiences with disparate, even antagonistic, environmental values and motives? How does social identity and social norms impact issue engagement? How does nature promote psychological well-being? How do individuals make environmentally-relevant decisions in the face of conflicting priorities? These and related questions form the basis of my teaching, scholarship and practice.
- PhD, Environmental Conservation, University of Massachusetts Amherst
- MS, School for Environment and Sustainability, University of Michigan
- BS, Psychology, St. Lawrence University
Guckian, M.L., Danylchuk, A.J., Cooke, S.J., & Markowitz, E.M. (2018). Peer pressure on the riverbank: Assessing catch-and-release anglers’ willingness to sanction others’(bad)
behavior. Journal of Environmental Management, 219, 252-259.
Guckian, M.L., Hamilton, E.M. & De Young, R. (2018). Cognitive mapping as participatory engagement in social science research on sustainability. In W. Leal, J. Callewaert, & R.W. Marans (Eds.), Handbook of Sustainability and Social Science Research (pp. 315-334). New York, NY: Springer International Publishing AG.
Hamilton, E.M., Guckian, M.L. & De Young, R. (2018). Living well and living green: Participant conceptualizations of green citizenship. In W. Leal, J. Callewaert, & R.W. Marans (Eds.). Handbook of Sustainability and Social Science Research (pp. 337-352). New York, NY: Springer International Publishing AG.
Markowitz, E.M. & Guckian, M.L. (2018). Climate change communication: Challenges,
insights, and opportunities. In S. Clayton & C. Manning (Eds.), Psychology and Climate
Change: Human Perceptions, Impacts and Responses (pp. 35-63). Cambridge, MA: Elsevier.
Guckian, M.L., Harbo, S., & De Young, R. (2017). Beyond green consumerism: Uncovering the motivations of green citizenship. Michigan Journal of Sustainability, 5, 73-95.
Guckian, M.L., Chapman, D.A, Markowitz, E.M., & Lickel, B. (2017). ‘A few bad apples’ or ‘Rotten to the core’: Perceptions of corporate culture drive brand engagement after corporate scandal. Journal of Consumer Behavior, 17(1), 29-41.
Markowitz, E.M., Chapman, D.C., Guckian, M.L., & Lickel, B. (2017). A corporate scandal that hits close to home: Examining owners’ responses to the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Environmental Communication, 11(6), 740-755.
Working at the intersection of conservation and environmental psychology, communications, judgment and decision-making, and environmental conservation, my research examines the behavioral underpinnings of the multifaceted socio-ecological dilemmas facing society. As an interdisciplinary environmental scholar, I am interested in the interactions that emerge between social-psychological and contextual factors, as efforts to address—local and global—environmental and sustainability outcomes will only be successful when they account for the full complexity and messy nuances of human decision-making. Provided environmental issues are increasingly embedded in social meanings, I am particularly interested in normative influence and how social norms are created and maintained through social interactions. In my current scholarship, I draw on various methodological techniques and disciplines to explore how various individual-level and contextual factors drive people’s engagement in overt public actions (e.g., social sanctions), including those related to consumer decision-making, civic action, and stakeholder participation. Here are a few ongoing projects:
Interpersonal communication. Traditional approaches to galvanize public engagement with science (and environmental issues, more broadly), have relied on unidirectional, top-down messaging approaches rather than more bottom-up, bidirectional forms of communication. In this line of research, myself and others have begun to explore how various forms of verbal (and non-verbal) interpersonal communication (e.g., sanctioning, signaling) can buttress positive engagement with environmental issues. This includes looking at how individual differences, context/behavior dependent factors, and issue framing impacts various forms of issue engagement.
Recreational fisheries and social influence. Over the past decade, scientific research has emerged to demonstrate how variability in anglers’ behavior and decision-making impacts the biological fitness and angled and released fish. Working collaboratively with fish conservation researchers, we have been examining how social dynamics may underlie and impact anglers’ adoption of catch and-release best practices, including their willingness to impose social sanctions on others’ inappropriate practices as a form of grassroots engagement. My ongoing work in this domain explores anglers’ preferences towards sharing and receiving angling-related imagery on social media as well as whether and how normative information is inferred and gleaned from exposure to images that depict irresponsible angling practices. Does repeated to exposure to such images on social media, for instance, influence anglers’ perceptions about the nature of harm relative to the time fish are exposed to air and in turn, influence their own handling practices?
Conceptualizing green citizenship. Efforts to regress significant environmental challenges, including climate change, tend to situate people in the role of the consumer, suggesting that by leaning and greening our purchasing habits we will advance positive change. Although important, such a narrative promulgates a limited role for people to assume in tackling the pressing environmental issues facing society and furthermore, continues to underscore a consumeristic mindset. As part of ongoing research, myself and collaborators have begun to explore an alternative role for individuals to pursue, green or ecological citizenship, which underscores a more holistic, participatory approach.
Consumer decision-making and corporate wrongdoing. Consumers increasingly patronize corporations on behalf of their commitment to more progressive social and environmental initiatives. Despite the important role corporate social responsibility occupies on corporate agendas, high profile corporate scandals continue to hit the marketplace, including Volkswagen’s intentional circumvention of national emissions regulations. We have ongoing work examining how consumers respond to actual instances of corporate wrongdoing, including examining how various individual-level and context-dependent factors drive engagement (e.g., boycotting, badmouthing, petitioning).
Conservation psychology; individual and collective decision-making; communication; behavioral science
Climate Change Communication and Education
Dissertation Proposal Seminar
Introduction to Research Design
My approach to teaching directly flows from my beliefs about the role of higher education in preparing students to meet the multifaceted challenges presented by climate change, environmental and social justice, and public health. In my teaching, I strive to foster students’ recognition of the behavioral underpinnings of the societal challenges we collectively face. By building on students’ pre-existing knowledge, unearthing and testing assumptions, and fostering both independent and collaborative engagement in meaningful, application-based opportunities, I aim to prepare students to promote change in their everyday lives and communities. Most importantly, my fundamental goal is to assist students on their path to becoming productive—local and global—socio-ecological citizens. Whole people who are both calculating in their comprehension and application of interdisciplinary concepts, and sincerely empathetic to the social, political, and environmental conditions under which people navigate society’s most pressing issues. Additionally, given the outright contentious nature of the social and environmental challenges facing society, one of my main goals as a facilitator is to inclusively engage all students, as diverse thought, expertise, and experience breed more just, creative, durable solutions.