Cross-Cultural Evidence for Spatial Bias in Beliefs About the Severity of Environmental Problems

Prior research has shown a tendency for environmental problems to be rated as more severe at the global level than at the local level. The present article reports reanalyses of a large cross-cultural data set (Study 1: k = 22, N = 3,277) and new cross-cultural data (Study 2: k = 8, N = 1,131) examining the prevalence of this spatial bias in the rated severity of environmental problems along with analyses of individual and country-level predictors of this bias.Results from multilevel modeling analyses showed that spatial bias was greater for happier and younger individuals and for those from smaller communities. We interpret these results as evidence for self-serving and “place-serving” biases in which the bias tempers the severity of environmental problems in one’s local area. Considering the large cross-cultural evidence, we argue that spatial bias is a plausible candidate of a psychological universal identified by research in environmental psychology.