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Psychological Underpinnings of (Un)Sustainable Behaviors

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Psychological Underpinnings of (Un)Sustainable Behaviors Susan Ledlow Decision Center for a Desert City School of Sustainability Arizona State University – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Psychological Underpinnings of (Un)Sustainable Behaviors


1
Psychological Underpinnings of (Un)Sustainable
Behaviors
Susan Ledlow Decision Center for a Desert
City School of Sustainability Arizona State
University
Advanced Water Education Workshop June 28-29,
2011
2
Outcomes
  • By the end of the session, I hope you can---
  • Explain why a research perspective is important
    when creating behavioral change initiatives,
    campaigns, or strategies
  • Discuss the importance of working with the
    groove of human psychology

3
Which disciplines study behavioral change?
  • Social Psychology
  • The scientific study of how peoples thoughts,
    feelings, and behaviors are influenced by other
    people
  • Environmental Psychology
  • The scientific study of how people influence the
    environment and how the environment influences
    people
  • Behavioral Economics
  • the hybrid offspring of psychology and
    economics
  • a branch of economics that studies how social,
    cognitive, and emotional factors influence
    economic decisions.

4
A Psychological Perspective on Environmental
Decisions
  • Understanding how people make decisions is
    critical to changing their behaviors
  • Psychological literature on decision-making
  • Psychological literature on fundamental motives
  • Psychological literature on influence and
    persuasion

5
Why an Experimental Approach?
  • Experimental methods and tools help us test the
    effects of relevant variables on climate and
    water decisions.
  • Intuitive interventions do not always work

6
Team
  • Susan Ledlow
  • School of Sustainability, Arizona State
    University
  • Edward Sadalla
  • Department of Psychology, Arizona State
    University
  • Students
  • Rebecca Neel
  • with Claire Yee, REU
  • Anna Berlin
  • Samantha Neufeld
  • Yexin Jessica Li

7
Overview of Our Study Areas
  1. Priorities in residential water consumption
  2. Landscape choice and perceived social identity
  3. Fundamental motives and environmental
    decision-making
  4. Social norms and environmental behaviors
  5. Temporal discounting of negative environmental
    consequences

8
Changing a Behavior
  • Pick a behavior
  • Using a refillable water bottle
  • Idling while waiting to pick up your child at
    school
  • Hanging laundry rather than using the dryer
  • Using public transportation
  • Meatless Mondays
  • What are some ways you can get people to start
    adopting the new behavior?

9
  • Education
  • Attitude Change
  • Behavioral Change

10
Assumptions About Behavioral Change
1 Reinforcement
  • Behaviors, emotions, and thoughts dont
    necessarily correspond.
  • Educating people often does not change either
    their attitudes or behaviors.
  • Even when attitudes change, behaviors dont
    necessarily follow.
  • Delayed reinforcement!

11
Climate Change
  • Scary!!!!!!
  • Because?????

12
Think About the Behavior You Wanted to Change
  • What are some ways you could provide immediate
    reinforcement to get people to start adopting the
    new behavior?
  • Could be positive or negative reinforcement

13
Assumptions About Behavioral Change 2 Fundamental
Motives
  • There is a human nature consisting of evolved
    abilities, behavioral tendencies, preferences,
    and fears.
  • Opposite of The blank slate (cf. e.g. Pinker,
    2002).
  • Fundamental motives. (c.f., Kenrick and
    Colleagues)
  • Care for family
  • Self-protection
  • Seeking friends and allies
  • Seeking status
  • Seeking mates

14
New DCDC Research Landscape Choice and Social
Identity
  • Anthropological, sociological, and psychological
    studies indicate that in most cultures there is a
    relationship between consumption and status.

15
But, research tells us that
  • Higher status individuals consume more resources
    than lower status individuals
  • For household energy
  • Through consumption of goods produced with energy

16
We want--
  • More things, e.g.,
  • New car every 3 years
  • Bigger things, e.g.,
  • Hummers, McMansions
  • Average new house size has increased from 1600 to
    2400 square feet in the last 30 years

17
  • The social meaning or symbolic significance
    behaviors will determine their probability of
    occurrence, e.g.,
  • If behaviors like desert landscaping, public
    transport, or recycling connote low status, they
    will be avoided.

18
Past Research
  • Individuals who display conservation behaviors
    are perceived as
  • Lower in status
  • Lower in sexual attractiveness
  • Less competitive
  • Generally unfavorable

19
Research Questions Symbolism and Landscape Choice
  • Studies 1 and 2
  • How does landscape choice affect identity
    symbolism?
  • Study 3
  • Can we change the symbolic significance of
    landscape choice?

20
Study 1 (Completed)
  • A man, woman, or couple were described as
    choosing desert landscaping or mesic landscaping
    for their newly purchased home
  • Participants were asked to rate the targets on a
    variety of dimensions

21
Study 1
  • A woman moved into a neighborhood in the greater
    Phoenix area. In this neighborhood, the houses
    were all quite similar, but differed in their
    front yard landscaping. Half of the homes had
    typical desert landscaping with cacti and other
    desert plants, and half had typical grass
    landscaping with trees and shrubs. After thinking
    over her options, she realized she had a strong
    preference for desert, grass landscaping, so
    she bought a house with desert, grass
    landscaping in front.

22
Overall Result
  • Landscape choice made a significant difference in
    how targets were rated
  • Targets who chose desert landscaping were
    perceived far more negatively than those who
    chose mesic landscaping

23
Results Ratings by landscape
24
Positive/negative evaluation
  • good-bad
  • pleasant-unpleasant
  • likeable not likeable
  • good neighbors bad neighbors
  • warm cold

25
Status/achievement orientation
  • wealthy - poor
  • educated - not educated
  • high status - low status
  • intelligent unintelligent

26
Family orientation
  • have children dont have children
  • likes children - doesnt like children
  • family oriented not family oriented

27
Creativity
  • artistic - non artistic
  • conventional unconventional
  • creative uncreative
  • adventurous not adventurous
  • complex simple
  • open to new experience closed
  • prefers new things familiar things

28
Prosocial/benevolence
  • generous - stingy
  • helpful - unhelpful
  • kind - unkind
  • volunteers - does not volunteer
  • donates to charity does not donate

29
Sexual attraction
  • sexy not sexy
  • romantic not romantic
  • attractive not attractive

30
Conservation behaviors
  • tend to save water waste water
  • environmentalist nonenvironmentalist
  • tend to save energy waste energy
  • recycles does not recycle

31
The decision makers future
  • How much will the value of their home increase
    over the next five years?
  • House with lawn more likely to increase, plt.001
  • How happy is this person/couple?
  • Target with lawn higher, plt.001

32
What image were Ps picturing?
33
Study 2
  • SES was specified A woman decided to purchase a
    home in an upscale neighborhood with large houses
    in the greater Phoenix area. In this
    neighborhood, the houses were all quite similar,
    but differed in their front yard landscaping.
    Half of the homes had typical desert landscaping
    with cacti and other desert plants, and half had
    typical grass landscaping with trees and shrubs.
    After thinking over her options, she realized she
    had a strong preference for desert landscaping,
    so she bought a house with desert landscaping in
    front.
  • Results the same

34
New DCDC Research Fundamental Motives Study 1
  • Preserve the planet for your childrens future
  • Save money on cooling and heating
  • Be a leader in your community
  • Energy saving is the new aphrodisiac
  • Find the home thats right for you (Control)

35
Results
  • Commit to Change
  • Effectiveness of the message depended on the sex
    of the person presented in the ad
  • Kin care message with female in ad was persuasive
  • message with male in the ad was persuasive
  • Spend More on Energy Efficiency
  • Effectiveness of the message depended on the sex
    of the person presented in the ad
  • But only for people high on family orientation
    scale

36
New DCDC Research Priorities in Residential
Water Consumption
  • Previous research on actual residential water
    use.
  • Little known about residents priorities for
    water use

American Waterworks Research Association
37
The Trade-off Experiments
  • Subjects get a fixed budget (24 or 36) to buy
    differently kinds of water use, e.g.,
  • Low flow vs. high flow showerheads
  • Desert plants or grass lawns

38
Questions Explored in This Research
  • What are the perceived priorities associated with
    residential water usage?
  • Are there sex differences?
  • Does environmental orientation influence
    choices?
  • Do long time residents prioritize water
    allocations differently than newcomers?

39
Results
  • High Priority
  • Unlimited toilet flushing
  • Long Showers
  • High flow faucets and showerheads
  • Low Priorities
  • Baths
  • Swimming pools
  • Outdoor uses in general
  • Protection of native plants and animals

40
Proportions of Budget Spent
41
Gender Differences
  • Study 1
  • Males allocated slightly more on outdoor water
    use than females
  • Study 2
  • Nada!

42
Environmental Orientation
  • Participants high on the NEP scale spent less on
    water overall
  • They also allocated slightly more to native plant
    and animal protection
  • But overall this was still a low priority

43
Length of Residence Oasis mentality
44
Think About the Behavior You Wanted to Change
  • What are some ways you could use fundamental
    motives to get people to start adopting the new
    behavior?
  • Specifically, how you you make the behavior
    associated with high status or family values?

45
Assumptions About Behavioral Change 3 Decision
Triggers
  • Many behaviors that are predictable are not
    economically rational
  • We often dont know why we do what we do
  • We cant always tell when were being influenced
  • Many things that influence us do so below the
    threshold of consciousness
  • Cialdinis Influence Science and Practice
  • Dan Ariellys Predictably Irrational
  • http//www.predictablyirrational.com/?page_id178
  • Thaler and Sunsteins Nudge
  • The default strategy

46
Decision Trigger
  • An automatic response.
  • A single, reliable piece of information that
    guides our behavioral decisions.
  • Examples
  • Heres your check.
  • Cutting in line to make photocopies.
  • Littering

47
Social Norm Example Petrified Forest Experiment
  • The old sign
  • Many past visitors have removed petrified wood
    from the Park, changing the natural state of the
    Petrified Forest.
  • pictures of three visitors taking wood.

48
Social Norm Example Petrified Forest Experiment
  • Some Visitors Saw the Old Sign
  • Many past visitors have removed petrified wood
    from the Park, changing the natural state of the
    Petrified Forest.
  • pictures of three visitors taking wood.
  •  Other Visitors Saw the New Sign
  • Please dont remove the petrified wood from the
    Park, in order to preserve the natural state of
    the Petrified Forest.
  • picture of a lone visitor stealing a piece of
    wood, with a red circle-and-bar symbol
    superimposed over his hand.

49
Results
Percentage of Marked Wood Stolen
8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
People Steal/Its Bad Most Dont Steal
50
New DCDC Research
  • How many people have to believe climate change is
    a serious problem before most people believe it?
  • Study 1 (complete) Do you think you believe what
    most people believe?
  • Yes you do, unless youre a political independent
  • Study 2 (in design phase) Can we change your
    beliefs by changing what you think others think?

51
Ethical implications of these strategies?
  • Lets say that you know that if you place foods
    in a certain place in a high schools cafeteria
    line, students will be more likely to buy them.
  • Is it ethical to rearrange the food in a
    cafeteria to encourage healthier choices?

52
Ethical implications of these strategies?
  • Lets say that you know that if you place foods
    in a certain place in a high schools cafeteria
    line, students will be more likely to buy them.
  • Is it ethical to rearrange the food in a
    cafeteria to encourage healthier choices?
  • Is it ethical to rearrange the food in a
    cafeteria to increase profits?

53
Ethics
  • Cialdini
  • True/Honest
  • Naturally occurring in the situation
  • Win-Win
  • Thaler and Sunsteins Libertarian Paternalism
  • It is ethical to steer peoples behavior in order
    to make their lives longer, happier, and better.
  • But, people should not be burdened if they want
    to make another choice

54
Is this ethical?
  • Making organ donation the default option on your
    drivers license (people have to opt out rather
    than opt in).
  • Requiring freshmen to live on campus in a
    residential community.
  • Charging people for green energy on their
    energy bill unless they opt out.
  • Requiring car dealers to show gallons per 100
    miles rather than mgp.
  • Requiring that all programmable thermostats be
    set to a default energy efficient option.
  • Deducting a portion of employees paychecks to go
    to a pension program unless they opt out
  • Deducting a portion of employees paychecks as a
    donation for the United Way unless they opt out.

55
Think About the Behavior You Wanted to Change
  • What are some ways you could use decision
    triggers to get people to start adopting the new
    behavior?
  • Specifically, how you you make the behavior a
    social norm or a default?

56
Community Based Social Marketing
  • One of the most widely used approaches to
    changing sustainability related behaviors
  • Original website, cases, listserv
  • http//www.cbsm.com
  • Online course
  • http//www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/socialmarketing/tr
    aining/index.htm

57
Final Thoughts
  • Educating people often does not change their
    attitudes or behaviors.
  • We might be more successful by just targeting the
    behavior without worrying about what people
    believe
  • Harnessing the power of human nature is always a
    good bet

58
Questions?
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