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The Greta Thunberg Effect

We are pleased to announce the publication of a new research article “The Greta Thunberg Effect: Familiarity with Greta Thunberg Predicts Intentions to Engage in Climate Activism in the United States” in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology.

Greta Thunberg has gained international recognition in a short period of time and has become a leading voice in contemporary climate activism despite her young age and non-elite status. Her viral Fridays for Future campaign and demand for inter-generational justice have established her as an inspirational youth figure. Using nationally representative survey data of U.S. adults, this paper investigates the social groups Greta Thunberg has influenced and the psychological mechanisms by which she has mobilized collective action – what we call the “Greta Thunberg Effect.”

We find that those who are more familiar with Greta Thunberg have a stronger sense of collective efficacy – the belief that, through working together with like-minded others, they can reduce global warming – and in turn have higher intentions of taking collective actions to reduce global warming.

Perhaps surprisingly, the “Greta Thunberg Effect” was similar in magnitude across all age groups. Additionally, familiarity with Greta Thunberg raised collective action intentions for both liberals and conservatives. However, for conservatives, this effect was dependent on the presence of collective efficacy beliefs, whereas for liberals there was both a direct link between familiarity with Greta Thunberg and collective action intentions and a connection via collective efficacy beliefs.

Figure 1
Familiarity with Greta Thunberg Predicts Collective Action Intentions via Collective Efficacy Beliefs

Note. Model tests the effect of familiarity with Greta Thunberg on collective action intentions through collective efficacy beliefs, moderated by political ideology. Values are unstandardized b-values from moderated mediation analysis. Values for Liberals and Conservatives are conditional unstandardized b-values at mean – 1SD and mean + 1SD of political ideology (measured on a self-placement scale of 1 = Very Liberal to 5 = Very Conservative) respectively. ns.  = p > .05, ** = p < .01, *** = p < .001

This study indicates that high-profile public advocates like Greta Thunberg can shape collective efficacy beliefs and motivate collective action, but their effect is likely stronger among those with a shared political ideology. It also suggests that Greta Thunberg and other public figures could potentially enhance their impact by emphasizing other, non-political, facets of their identities that they share with diverse audiences.

The open access article is available from the Journal of Applied Social Psychology at .