Controlling environmental crisis appraisal through knowledge, vividness, and timing

Document Type


Publication Date


Journal / Book Title

Journal of Environmental Psychology


Effective communication during disasters ensures that the public realizes the urgency of the crisis. The present research aims to identify factors that influence the perceived urgency and severity of a chronic water crisis in the Southwest United States that may lead to a future megadrought. Findings show knowledge about the interdependence of water and power infrastructures, vividness of the dreadful consequences of droughts, and time of crisis jointly increase perceived urgency and severity of the crisis, thus suggesting three directions for future research. First, knowledge-based interventions may be most effective when the knowledge presented is not already salient. Second, vividness of the crisis could increase the perceived urgency of a crisis. Third, design of future interventions should take into account individuals’ competing needs to satisfy desires for consuming resources versus conserving them; individuals may be less amenable to sustainability interventions when their desire for resources is intense.