The CORE Lab’s very own Nicole Betz, a fourth year graduate student was one of the 25 finalists at this year’s Research, Innovation, and Scholarship Expo (RISE). Congrats, Nicole! To check out Nicole’s poster on human exceptionalism and climate change, click here.

Her work was also recently featured in a News@Northeastern article describing some of this year’s RISE highlights. Here is an excerpt from the article below.

Is human exceptionalism a threat to the planet?

Nicole Betz believes that it’s going to require more than engineers and scientists to build a more resilient society, which is why she’s devoted her doctoral thesis in psychology to addressing climate change.

In addition to devising solutions to climate change, we have to address the psychological barriers that stand in the way of implementing those changes. Her theory is that one of those barriers is the instinctive belief that humans stand apart from the ecological network that binds all living things.

Known as anthropocentrism—or human exceptionalism—this belief holds that we’re smarter, more adaptable, and far less connected to the chain of life than other species, so climate change isn’t going to substantially harm us.

To test her theory, she set up a string of complex experiments to test perceptions of how humans are related to other plants and animals in terms of biology, ecology, and other factors. Using a test population of 54 students, she found that there is a strong correlation showing those who instinctively believe in human exceptionalism are far less concerned about climate change.

“If we want to change public attitudes, the first step is to understand where that misunderstanding comes from,” she said.

Her next challenge will be to determine how to use this insight to devise strategies for increasing public support for policies aimed at slowing climate change.


To check out the full article, RISE Up for Research, click here.