Social identity, perception and motivation in adaptation to climate risk in the coffee sector of Chiapas, Mexico

Elisa Frank, Hallie Eakin, David López-Carr

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    177 Scopus citations


    Most investigation into climate adaptation to date has focused on specific technological interventions and socio-economic aspects of adaptive capacity. New perspectives posit that socio-cognitive factors may be as or more important in motivating individuals to take adaptive actions. Recent research indicates that incorporating insights from motivation theory can enhance theorization of adaptive capacity. Yet unexplored, and what we propose here, is the addition of social identity to models of adaptive capacity and adaptation. To apply this conceptual framework, the first author undertook in-depth interviews with a sample of farmers who had participated in broader surveys the previous year to explore their perceptions of their social identity, climate-related information and its sources, and climate risk. These interviews elicited compelling evidence that social identity mediates between risk perception and adaptation through its influence on motivation. Interviews revealed significant links between social identity and perception of information, risk perception and adaptation, of which the most salient were the relative credibility and legitimacy of information sources (related to us vs. them social group differentiation); the role of coffee organizations; and ethnicity and geographic marginalization. Strong in-group identity and perceptions of potentially influential out-groups such as the scientific community appear to particularly influence perception and use of information. These findings have rich policy implications for adaptation management and merit further investigation to identify how, where and why social identity plays a role in climate-risk perception, motivation and adaptation in other geographic areas of vulnerability worldwide.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)66-76
    Number of pages11
    JournalGlobal Environmental Change
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Feb 2011


    • Adaptation
    • Coffee production
    • Mexico
    • Motivation
    • Perception
    • Social identity

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Global and Planetary Change
    • Geography, Planning and Development
    • Ecology
    • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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