Skip to content

Social Science Research

Art courtesy of painter John Brosio.

Social psychology seeks to understand the nature and causes of individual behavior and thought in social situations. It is also concerned with applying this knowledge to understanding the behavior of groups in various contexts. CIRA is utilizing social psychology to develop a better understanding of how weather messaging — such as severe weather warnings, or climate information — is received and acted upon by the general public.

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: The social science group is offering two short, online courses designed to acquaint physical scientists with some of the basic concepts of social science.  The approximately 30-minute sessions are offered through CIRA’s VISIT program.  The first session is titled, “A brief introduction to social science: A course for physical scientists,” the second, “Designing an effective survey: A beginning course for physical scientists.”  Both courses are available in recorded format online at: sessions/.  Select from the list of available courses.

General Response Problems: 

Among its many duties, the National Weather Service (NWS) is responsible for issuing public warnings for all hazardous weather events across the United States (US). Such events include hurricanes, tornadoes, hazardous winter weather, flash floods, and many others. Technology and research have allowed significant improvements to be made in the detection of most varieties of severe weather. But when this information is passed along to those who may be adversely affected there can be bottlenecks and problems that prevent this information from getting to those in need of it. This research will look at various facets of warning communications in an attempt to identify and remove these potential road blocks.

Vila, O., Fast, L.C. Weaver, J.F., & Miller S. (2015). Severe weather warnings: Lifetime experiences and resilience help determine response. Presented at the 27th APS Annual Convention, May 21-24, 2015, New York, NY, USA

Weaver, J.F., Gruntfest, E., & Levy, G.M. (2000). Two floods in Fort Collins, Colorado: Learning from a natural disaster. Bull, Amer. Met. Soc., 81(10), 2359-2366.

This project doesn’t have any data files yet.

Public Response to Weather Warnings — pilot study at CSU CompletedThe pilot study has been completed and improved in order to launch the national survey.
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Public survey questionnaire approved by Institutional Review Boards (IRBs), Colorado State University and Troy University.
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Weather Response National SurveyThis is a revised survey based on the pilot study which was run during the 2013 Spring and 2014 Fall semester at Colorado State University. Currently, we’re hoping to gain a nationally representative sample of at least 2,000 participants from across the United States. Below is the link to the survey; please pass this link on through social media sites and help us gather our intended sample! Answers are anonymous and each participant will be entered seperately in a drawing to win a $50 Amazon gift card.

Updates on the details and results of the survey will provided once data collection is completed. Please email any of the researchers if you have questions about the current research.

John Weaver, M.S.

Primary Investigator

Lindsey Harkabus, Ph.D.

Primary Investigator

Olivia Vila, B.S.

Primary Investigator


Project: Emergency Manager Demographics:

Emergency managers (EMs) and National Weather Service (NWS) forecasters routinely work together during natural disasters involving weather. Such disasters include hurricanes, tornadoes, severe windstorms, severe winter storms, wildland fires and so on. Emergency managers and their staff are often the first point of contact for NWS forecasters during a developing weather calamity. This study is designed to provide demographic information on the emergency management community — information that should help facilitate improved communications between these two key groups. The data provided via the “Data” tab are from a quality-controlled version of the larger Excel file collected during the demographic study. This larger file will appear for public use sometime in the future. Meanwhile, if you would like to use any of these preliminary results/graphs please acknowledge us as, “graphs (data) courtesy of the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere (CIRA), website:”

Fast, L.C., Weaver, J.F., Miller, S, &Ferrin, T. Jr. (2015). Training effects on emergency management activation response. Journal of Organizational Psychology, 16(1), 71-77

Weaver, J., Harkabus, L. C., Braun, J., Miller, S., Cox, R., Griffith, J., & Mazur, R. J. (2014). An Overview of a Demographic Study of United States Emergency Managers. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 95(2), 199-203. doi:

Fast, L.C., Weaver, J.F., Ferrin, T., Vila, O., & Miller S. (2013). Training effects on emergency management activiation response. Presented at the 26th annual convention of the Association for Psychological Science, to be held in San francisco, CA, 22-25 May 2014.

Weaver, J.F., Harkabus, L.C., Braun, J., Miller, S., Cox, R. Griffith, J. & Mazur, R.J. (2013). A demographic study of U.S. emergency managers. Bulletin of the International Association of Emergency Managers, 30, 10, 16 (cont).

Harkabus, L.C., Weaver, J., Miller, S. (2013). Understanding emergency management: Factors affecting disaster preparedness and outcomes. Presented at the 121st Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, July 31 – August 4, Honolulu, Hawaii.

February 14, 2014


September 9, 2013


July 18, 2012

Preliminary Results & Graphs

June 29, 2012


October 22, 2013

Paper submitted to 26th annunal APS convention (see publocations)
October 1, 2013

Emergency Management study highlighted in IAEM Bulletin (see publications)
February 23, 2013

Returned revised manuscript to the Bull. of the AMS (see publications)
June 29, 2012

Project: Global Warming Messaging: 

Over the past several years, those supporting — as well those opposing — the theory that anthropogenic global warming represents a danger to the environment have used a number of persuasion techniques to convey their concern. In spite of these efforts, there has been little, if any, change in societal attitude in the U.S. That is, the percentages of people supporting each point-of-view has remained approximately the same. The goal of this project is to discover why climate messaging has been relatively ineffective and what, if anything, can be done to change those results.

Weaver, J.F., Harkabus, L.C. & Miller, S. (2013). Polarizing messages change nothing: A realistic look at messaging effects on environmental attitudes. Presented at the 14th Annual Meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Jan 17-19, 2013, New Orleans.

Weaver, J. F. & Harkabus, L.C. (2012). Polarizing messages change nothing: A realistic look at messaging effect on environmental attitude. To be presented at the 14th Annual Meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Jan 17-19, 2013, New Orleans, LA. ABSTRACT

This project doesn’t have any data files yet.

August 28, 2013

New study combines several data sets (see “publications” for outline)
December 19, 2012

Conference Poster (see Publications)
July 9, 2012