Results in 2018
A conceptual scheme has been developed for a socio-psychological analysis of attitudes toward global risks — anticipation, experiencing and understanding the global threats themselves, as well as joint activities of representatives of their own and other groups, aimed at their identification, creation, use or prevention. Socio-psychological and discursive mechanisms for construing social representations of global risks are highlighted (metaphorization, which identifies some aspects of risks and hides others, reducing the likelihood and severity of risks under the influence of faith in the justice of the world and cognitive dissonance, distancing risks in time and space, discursive strategies of deproblematization).
Based on the theoretical analysis and our empirical data (N=241, N=547), the socio-psychological specifics of various types of global risks are identified: natural, geopolitical and technological. Unlike anthropogenic threats, climate change and natural disasters are perceived as inevitable and unpredictable, not influenced by man. Concern about such risks is directly related to fatalism and belief in the predestination of fate, as well as with the conviction that in order to save humanity, a return to traditional values and strict state control over the behavior of citizens is necessary. The data we have obtained indicates that forcing media anxiety with publications about upcoming natural disasters can have the opposite effect: such publications can strengthen fatalistic attitudes and intolerance for others, reducing people's willingness to act in the conditions of a natural disaster.
Psychological factors of strategic security under conditions of changing world order are highlighted, the main one being the growing uncertainty regarding the intentions and capabilities of the parties in a multipolar world, US withdrawal from international treaties and the development of new technologies (high-precision weapons, new delivery vehicles, cyber weapons and artificial intelligence). The impact of experiencing global risks (including the nuclear threat) in the mass consciousness on international relations and the behavior of political leaders is analyzed. The mechanism of the spiral of tension is described: raising anxiety in the social media about global risks leads to an increase in fatalism, in-group favoritism and support for extreme measures, which, in turn, provokes politicians to rely on nationalism and populism, making them susceptible to motivational and cognitive biases during strategic decision making (security dilemma, overconfidence and over-evaluation of the ability to control the situation, normative conflict and the effects of "terror management", risky shift under loss aversion, Rubicon crossing effect et others).
The questionnaire “Attitudes to Global Risks” has been developed, measuring various components of a person’s attitude to global risks: affective (anxiety about global risks); cognitive (belief in the need for cooperation to predict and prevent global risks; fatalistic ignorance; religious authoritarianism as a means of salvation; acceptability of radical solutions and survival of some at the expense of others; optimism about the global future; apocalypticism), as well as behavioral components (willingness to participate in preventing global risks; willingness to take action to protect themselves and their loved ones from global risks). Approbation of the questionnaire (N=924) using confirmatory factor analysis confirmed the structure of attitude to global risks that we have identified.
A study was conducted among adult Russians (N=293) to study their representations about the consequences of introducing artificial intelligence technologies into everyday life and identifying socio-psychological predictors of readiness to use these technologies. The core of representation about the development of artificial intelligence includes unemployment, intellectual and spiritual degradation of people, AI’s getting out of control and the world captured by machines, total control and invasion of privacy, irresponsible use of AI by people, and the use of AI as a weapon of war. Perceived AI threats are not so much connected with the reliability and predictability of the technology itself, as with its use by the state and other people. This indicates that the introduction of AI in everyday life will exacerbate the attention of citizens to cases of injustice and discrimination. High expectations regarding algorithms can be replaced by a chasm of disappointment, significantly reducing not only the trust in the IT industry, but also the level of trust in social institutions as a whole. The expectation of negative consequences of the development of artificial intelligence, according to the results of linear regression analysis, is inversely related to outgroup trust and is directly related to social cynicism. Our research shows that the credibility of AI is not the clarity or the expected benefits of technology, but the credibility of the intentions of its creators and users. Support for the introduction of AI to improve the efficiency of social institutions was not associated with prosocial and collectivist attitudes, but with an orientation toward personal success and a low security value. This may indicate a potential contradiction in the expectations of AI by technocratic elites and society, when automation of public services, health care and education will occur not in the interests of the majority, but in the interests of the minority most oriented to personal achievements.
The psychological characteristics of computer games, the action of which takes place after a global catastrophe, are analyzed. It was supposed that the computer game culture maintains belief in the possibility of survival after a nuclear war, leads to an underestimation of the imaginary catastrophic consequences, the true reality of which is not available to the experience of living humanity. The exploratory studies of gamers’ attitudes toward global risks (N=503, N=291) are conducted. It is shown that the experience of playing computer games is negatively related with anxiety about global risks and the value of humanity survival. Nevertheless, a comparison of the types of game preferences, we have identified, shows, that gamers playing post-apocalyptic games are characterized by higher concerns about global risks and social pessimism. They are more willing to participate in the prevention of global risks, but at the same time they are more inclined to believe that a global catastrophe can be survived if you prepare for it in advance. Respondents who do not play computer games, as well as gamers who prefer shooters and arcades, were most inclined to fatalistic ignoring global risks. At the same time, the same two groups had the highest fear of personal death. On the contrary, gamers, who prefer multiplayer online role-playing games, are more optimistic about the future of humanity, less inclined to ignore global risks and less prone to the fear of personal death, which may be due to their experience in creating successful alliances to solve complex task in games. Promising areas of research on the impact of computer games on the attitudes to global risks and prosocial attitudes are outlined.
In four cities exposed to global risks to varying degrees (Moscow, Simferopol, Arkhangelsk and Norilsk), a survey was conducted (N = 547) to study types of attitudes towards global risks, personal determinants of attitudes towards global risks and global identification. The socio-psychological types of the individual’s attitudes to global risks were highlighted: “radical pessimists” (17%), “anxious traditionalists” (16%), “activists” (13%), “ignoring” (15%), “passive pragmatists” ( 26%), “optimists” (13%).
Analysis of empirical data using structural modeling allowed us to identify three groups of beliefs that perform different psychological functions when coping with information about global threats. The first of them performs a protective function in the conditions of a lack of social resources: conviction in the injustice of society, distrust of social institutions, as well as the conviction in predetermined destiny block participation in collective actions to prevent risks, increase apocalypticism and increase orientation to radical decisions. The second group of beliefs performs a stabilizing function, contributes to coping with anxiety before global threats through increasing adherence to group norms: religiosity, orientation toward respect for authority, purity and sanctity in moral evaluations reinforce the conviction of the need to return to traditional values and tighter control over citizens to prevent catastrophe. Conservative beliefs help to increase manageability and mobilize society in the face of disaster, but at the same time they shift public consciousness to “restrictive” measures, which may not be enough. For example, the merely restrictive approach to the prevention of man-made risks weakens social trust and makes it difficult for the public to enter a dialogue to develop rules for the use of new technologies. Finally, the third group of beliefs performs the function of pre-adaptation to the threats of the future through increased tolerance for uncertainty: beliefs in a person’s ability to determine their present and future, an orientation towards justice and caring for people, a belief in social complexity, the presence of many different solutions in the same situation, and a belief in the justice of the world support an orientation towards forecasting and preventing global threats through cooperation. These beliefs help person to resist the temptation of simplified, populist, radical solutions.
The results of empirical research conducted in 2018 indicate that when informing about global risks, it is necessary to share experiences of successful cooperation in order to prevent them, to maintain trust in social institutions and to propose a clear action program that strengthens self-esteem, orientation to care for other people and faith in the ability to influence one's destiny.
The results of the work on the analysis of the problem were tested at 5 international and all-Russian conferences. In order to discuss the results of the first stage of the research, two seminars on the psychology of global risks were organized and conducted within the project: the seminar “Global risks: psychological and social aspects” (Russian International Affairs Council, Moscow, December 6, 2018;http://russiancouncil.ru/news/kak-perestat-boyatsya-i-nachat-reshat-globalnye-problemy-seminar-rsmd-po-vospriyatiyu-globalnykh-ris/) and the seminar “The Psychology of Global Risks” at the All-Russian Jubilee Scientific Conference “Problems of Social and economic psychology: results and prospects of research" (Institute of psychology, Russian academy of sciences, Moscow, December 7, 2018; http://www.ipras.ru/engine/documents/document13354.pdf).