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Markowitz, Ezra

MarkowitzTitle: Assistant Professor
Degree: Ph.D. University of Oregon
Office: 303 Holdsworth
Phone: (413)545-1237

Personal page:

Primary interests

I’m interested in uncovering the underlying psychological, social and contextual factors that influence individual and collective environmental decision-making. Understanding what drives the conservation- and sustainability-related actions people take can help inform strategies, programs, interventions and policies designed to improve both environmental conservation and human well-being. I primarily use methods and theory from the behavioral and communication sciences to reveal how individuals and communities make environmentally-relevant decisions, often in the face of conflicting priorities and significant tradeoffs. My research, teaching and practice all aim to develop and highlight the insights that behavioral science has to offer in promoting positive environmental and societal outcomes.

Current projects

1) Intergenerational environmental decision-making

Much of my recent research has been focused on uncovering factors that influence how individuals make decisions in the present that have their most important impacts in the future, and particularly on other people in the future. I am currently exploring a number of issues related to this topic, including the role of moral emotions such as gratitude on future-oriented decision-making and the impact of legacy concerns on climate change concern and action.

2) Decision architecture and environmental conservation

Over the past 10 years, a powerful set of tools for encouraging positive environmental, financial and health-related decision-making has emerged at the nexus of psychology and economics: decision (or choice) architecture (DA). Working with other DA experts at Columbia and elsewhere, I am currently working on a number of experimental and integrative projects that push our understanding of the effective and appropriate use of these tools for promoting environmental behavior change.

3) Interpersonal communication as under-appreciated pathway to positive behavior change

Most approaches to environmental communication rely on top-down, unidirectional (i.e., traditional) messaging techniques. Although important, decades of research in communications, marketing and psychology highlights the critical and powerful role that more informal forms of interpersonal communication play in shaping behavior and beliefs. Our group has begun exploring factors that influence various forms of interpersonal communication (e.g., social sanctioning, signaling, every conversation) regarding environmental issues, including individual differences, issue framing and reputational concerns.

4) Multi-disciplinary perspectives on climate ethics

The field of climate ethics has traditionally been dominated by philosophers. Recently, however, there has been an explosion of research across numerous disciplinary domains (including Psychology, Law, Economics, Geography and Political Science) on the ethical dimensions and implications of anthropogenic climate change. My work in this area aims to integrate disparate perspectives and bring more empirical research into the broader, multidisciplinary field of climate ethics.

5) Public engagement with science (and scientist engagement with the public)

Gaining a better understanding of how the general (U.S.) public thinks about and interacts with science and technology is critically important for protecting and expanding the role that scientific knowledge and discovery plays in modern life (particularly policymaking). Moreover, decreasing levels of public trust in essentially all major institutions (including science and scientists) underscores the need to better understand scientists’ motivations to engage with the public as well as to identify best practices for supporting fruitful engagement from both directions. To this end, a number of recent projects focus on identifying what the public thinks of new and emerging scientific issues and technologies (e.g., Markowitz, Englebourgh, Nisbet & Danylchuk, in press; Newman, Markowitz & Nisbet, in prep; Nisbet & Markowitz, 2014), including the use of drones for environmental conservation, stem cells for biomedical research, and responses to abrupt climate change.

Courses taught

Environmental decision-making, NRC 494EI

Public Engagement & Communication, ECO 690P

Environmental Social Sciences, ECO 697EC

Selected publications

Markowitz, E.M., Danylchuk, A.J., Nisbet, M.C., Engelbourg, S.I. (In press). What’s that buzzing noise? Public opinion on the use of drones for conservation science. BioScience.

Yoeli, E., Budescu, D., Carrico, A., Delmas, M., DeShazo, J., Ferraro, P., Forester, H., Kunreuther, H., Larrick, R. Lubell, M., Markowitz, E.M., Ronn, B., Vandenbergh, M., Weber, E.U. (In press). Behavioral science tools for energy and environmental policy. Behavioral Science & Policy Journal.

Chapman, D., Wilson, R., Corner, A., & Markowitz, E.M. (2016). Climate Visuals: A mixed methods investigation of public perceptions of climate images in three countries. Global Environmental Change, 41, 172-182.

Milfont, T.L. & Markowitz, E.M. (2016). Sustainable consumer behavior: A multilevel perspective. Current Opinion in Psychology.

Markowitz, E.M., Grasso, M., Jamieson, D. (2015). Climate ethics at a multidisciplinary crossroads: Four directions for future scholarship. Climatic Change. 

Corner, A., Markowitz, E.M. & Pidgeon, N. (2014). Public engagement with climate change: The role of human values. WIRE Climate Change.

Markowitz, E.M., Slovic, P., Vastfjall, D. & Hodges, S.D. (2013). Compassion fade and the challenge of environmental conservation. Judgment & Decision Making, 8, 397- 406.

Howe, P.D., Markowitz, E.M., Lee, T., Ko, C., Leiserowitz, A. (2013). Global perceptions of local temperature change. Nature Climate Change, 3, 352-356.

Markowitz, E.M. & Bowerman, T. (2012). How much is too much? Examining the public’s beliefs about consumption. Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, 12, 167- 189.

Nisbet, M.C., Markowitz, E.M., Kotcher, J.E. (2012). Winning the climate change conversation: Framing and moral messaging in public campaigns. In L. Ahern & D.S. Bortree (Eds.), Talking green: Exploring contemporary issues in environmental communications. New York: Peter Lang.Markowitz, E.M. (2012). Is climate change an ethical issue? Exploring young adults’ beliefs about climate and morality. Climatic Change, 114, 479-495.

Markowitz, E.M., Goldberg, L.R., Ashton, M.C. & Lee, K. (2012). Profiling the ‘pro- environmental individual’: A personality perspective. Journal of Personality, 80, 81-111.

Markowitz, E.M. & Shariff, A.F. (2012). Climate change and moral judgment. Nature Climate Change, 2, 243-247.

Page updated: January 26, 2017