A Within-Country Study of Biased Comparative Judgements About the Severity of Environmental Problems


  • Taciano L. Milfont Orcid
  • Robert Thomson Orcid


The spatial and temporal reach of contemporary environmental problems are unparalleled. Collective efforts to address global environmental problems are required but actions to tackle these problems demand initial recognition of their seriousness. Cross-cultural research has shown a reliable bias in comparative judgements about the severity of environmental problems for geographically distant places, with environmental issues perceived to be more severe “there” than “here.” The robustness of this effect may have unwarranted consequences since perceiving environmental problems as being worse elsewhere might lead individuals to not take actions in their locality. We conducted a within-country study to test whether this spatial bias would emerge for samples from all Brazilian states (k = 27, N = 4,265; 85% female; Age M = 24; Age SD = 9.67). Providing further support for a biased comparative judgement, we observed that the severity of environmental problems was judged as worse at the country level than at the state level (mean spatial bias score among Brazilian states = 0.54). Only 2% of the variation in spatial bias was attributable to across-state differences. By replicating cross-cultural findings within a single nation, our findings provide further support for the prevalence and generalizability of biased comparative judgements about the severity of environmental problems. We discuss critical future directions for spatial bias research.