Humanity faces an unprecedented set of global environmental problems. We argue that to promote pro-environmental decisions and to achieve public consensus on the need for action we must address individual and collective understanding (cognition) of environmental problems, as well as individual and collective commitments to take action to mitigate or prevent those problems. We review literature pertaining to psychological predispositions, mental models, framing, psychological distance, and the social context of decisions that help elucidate how these goals of cognition and commitment can be achieved. This article reveals the complex and multiply determined nature of environmental decisions. However, we argue that this complexity points to opportunities to reduce the inherent uncertainty surrounding global environmental challenges via appeals to the psychological mechanisms that underpin our decisions.


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