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Grasping a changing climate: How does uncertainty shape individual judgments and decisions?


Dr Astrid Kause, a Research Fellow based in the Leeds University Business School, will be delivering the seventh presentation in the Centre for Decision Research’s 2017/18 seminar series. This seminar is co-hosted with the Sustainability Research Institute (SRI). 

Uncertainties are omnipresent when individuals make judgments and decisions regarding complex phenomena like climate change. In this talk, Dr Kause will first introduce a framework that classifies different sources of these uncertainties. The framework is based on the statistical sampling framework from the field of survey methodology. It integrates previous uncertainty classifications from disciplines like economics, philosophy and climate sciences. Each source of uncertainty is then mapped onto a public policy strategy which aims at helping individuals and policy makers to better cope with and reduce uncertainties when making climate-related decisions.

Building on this, in the second part of the talk, Dr Kause will present two studies investigating how individuals communicate about uncertain climate projections. In the first study, the research team examined how speakers’ underlying beliefs about climate and the environment influence how they choose to verbally frame a climate projection on rainfall change in greater London. In the second study, they assessed the effects of different verbal frames of this projection on listeners’ beliefs. Results indicate that subtle linguistic frames leak and influence underlying beliefs. This potentially fuels the polarised debate around climate change. Findings motivate further research on how to communicate uncertain climate projections in a more neutral and unbiased way, in order to counteract polarisation among the public.

For further information, please contact the Research Office at


Astrid studies human judgments and decisions in the environmental and climate domain. This involves how individuals perceive uncertain climate evidence as well as mechanisms of change in pro-environmental behaviours. Inspired by the ecological rationality-framework from the field of decision sciences, her research aims at improving the intuitive design of decision environments and aims at helping individuals making more informed decisions when facing complex challenges like climate change.

Prior to joining the Centre for Decision Research and the Sustainability Research Institute at the University of Leeds in 2017, Astrid completed her PhD at the Harding Center for Risk Literacy at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin and the University of Konstanz, Germany (1/2013-12/2016). Besides her PhD research at these institutions, she was involved into studying health and environmental risk perception, risk communication and behaviors. She also explored from a game theory perspective how and when different incentives motivate fair sharing behaviour. Her research has been funded by grants from the University of Klagenfurt and the Max Planck Society.