Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.


Ethnocentrism as a defence

Group Processes Intergr. Relations (2017)

Climate change presents multiple threats to human health and wellbeing via impacts on extreme weather events, agriculture, and pathogen prevalence. Information about the nature and scope of these negative consequences has been used to try to convince people of the urgent need for direct action. However, such threatening information may instead induce more symbolic defensive behaviours, such as ethnocentrism or nationalism, which reduce existential anxiety.

Isabella Uhl and colleagues from the University of Salzburg and the University of Groningen conducted an experiment in Austria and Argentina, two countries where the majority of the population believe that climate change is an important problem that must be acted on. Austrian but not Argentinian participants exposed to threatening information about climate change reported lower intention to engage in pro-environmental behaviours and scored higher on a measure of ethnocentrism than participants presented with neutral information about the Earth. These effects were mediated by affect, which was more negative following exposure to threatening information. These results suggest information about the threat of climate change triggers symbolic rather than direct defences, particularly in individualist (versus collectivist) cultures.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jenn Richler.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Richler, J. Ethnocentrism as a defence. Nature Clim Change 8, 13 (2018).

Download citation


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing