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. Advanced Water Education Workshop June 28-29, 2011. Outcomes. By the end of the session, I hope you can---

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Psychological underpinnings of un sustainable behaviors

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


Outcomes

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


Which disciplines study behavioral change

Which disciplines study behavioral change?

  • Social Psychology

    • The scientific study of how people’s 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.


A psychological perspective on environmental decisions

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


Why an experimental approach

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


Psychological underpinnings of un sustainable behaviors

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


Overview of our study areas

Overview of Our Study Areas

  • Priorities in residential water consumption

  • Landscape choice and perceived social identity

  • Fundamental motives and environmental decision-making

  • Social norms and environmental behaviors

  • Temporal discounting of negative environmental consequences


Changing a behavior

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?


Psychological underpinnings of un sustainable behaviors

Education

Attitude Change

Behavioral Change


Assumptions about behavioral change 1 reinforcement

Assumptions About Behavioral Change 1Reinforcement

  • Behaviors, emotions, and thoughts don’t necessarily correspond.

    • “Educating” people often does not change either their attitudes or behaviors.

    • Even when attitudes change, behaviors don’t necessarily follow.

      • Delayed reinforcement!


Climate change

Climate Change

  • Scary!!!!!!

  • Because?????


Think about the behavior you wanted to change

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


Assumptions about behavioral change 2 fundamental motives

Assumptions About Behavioral Change 2Fundamental 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


New dcdc research landscape choice and social identity

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.

“What do her

diamonds say

about you?”


But research tells us that

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


We want

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


Psychological underpinnings of un sustainable behaviors

  • 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.


Past research

Past Research

  • Individuals who display conservation behaviors are perceived as

    • Lower in status

    • Lower in sexual attractiveness

    • Less competitive

    • Generally unfavorable


Research questions symbolism and landscape choice

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?


Study 1 completed

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


Study 1

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.


Overall result

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


Results ratings by landscape

Results: Ratings by landscape


Positive negative evaluation

Positive/negative evaluation

  • good-bad

  • pleasant-unpleasant

  • likeable – not likeable

  • good neighbors – bad neighbors

  • warm – cold


Status achievement orientation

Status/achievement orientation

  • wealthy - poor

  • educated - not educated

  • high status - low status

  • intelligent – unintelligent


Family orientation

Family orientation

  • have children – don’t have children

  • likes children - doesn’t like children

  • family oriented – not family oriented


Creativity

Creativity

  • artistic - non artistic

  • conventional – unconventional

  • creative – uncreative

  • adventurous – not adventurous

  • complex – simple

  • open to new experience – closed

  • prefers new things – familiar things


Prosocial benevolence

Prosocial/benevolence

  • generous - stingy

  • helpful - unhelpful

  • kind - unkind

  • volunteers - does not volunteer

  • donates to charity – does not donate


Sexual attraction

Sexual attraction

  • sexy – not sexy

  • romantic – not romantic

  • attractive – not attractive


Conservation behaviors

Conservation behaviors

  • tend to save water – waste water

  • environmentalist – nonenvironmentalist

  • tend to save energy –waste energy

  • recycles – does not recycle


The decision makers future

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, p<.001

  • How happy is this person/couple?

    • Target with lawn higher, p<.001


What image were p s picturing

What image were P’s picturing?


Study 2

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


New dcdc research fundamental motives study 1

New DCDC ResearchFundamental Motives Study 1

  • Preserve the planet for your children’s future

  • Save money on cooling and heating

  • Be a leader in your community

  • “Energy saving is the new aphrodisiac”

  • Find the home that’s right for you (Control)


Results

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


New dcdc research priorities in residential water consumption

New DCDC ResearchPriorities in Residential Water Consumption

  • Previous research on actual residential water use.

  • Little known about residents’ priorities for water use

American Waterworks Research Association


The trade off experiments

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


Questions explored in this research

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?


Results1

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


Proportions of budget spent

Proportions of Budget Spent


Gender differences

Gender Differences

  • Study 1

    • Males allocated slightly more on outdoor water use than females

  • Study 2

    • Nada!


Environmental orientation

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


Length of residence oasis mentality

Length of Residence: “Oasis mentality”


Think about the behavior you wanted to change1

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?


Assumptions about behavioral change 3 decision triggers

Assumptions About Behavioral Change 3Decision Triggers

  • Many behaviors that are predictable are not economically “rational”

    • We often don’t know why we do what we do

    • We can’t always tell when we’re being influenced

      • Many things that influence us do so below the threshold of consciousness

      • Cialdini’s Influence: Science and Practice

      • Dan Arielly’s Predictably Irrational

        • http://www.predictablyirrational.com/?page_id=178

      • Thaler and Sunstein’s Nudge

        • The default strategy


Decision trigger

Decision Trigger

  • An automatic response.

  • A single, reliable piece of information that guides our behavioral decisions.

    • Examples:

      • “Here’s your check.”

      • Cutting in line to make photocopies.

      • Littering


Social norm example petrified forest experiment

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.


Social norm example petrified forest experiment1

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 don’t 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.


Psychological underpinnings of un sustainable behaviors

Results

Percentage of Marked Wood Stolen

8

7

6

5

4

3

2

1

People Steal/It’s Bad Most Don’t Steal


New dcdc research

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 you’re a political independent

    • Study 2 (in design phase): Can we change your beliefs by changing what you think others think?


Ethical implications of these strategies

Ethical implications of these strategies?

  • Let’s say that you know that if you place foods in a certain place in a high school’s cafeteria line, students will be more likely to buy them.

    • Is it ethical to rearrange the food in a cafeteria to encourage healthier choices?


Ethical implications of these strategies1

Ethical implications of these strategies?

  • Let’s say that you know that if you place foods in a certain place in a high school’s 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?


Ethics

Ethics

  • Cialdini

    • True/Honest

    • Naturally occurring in the situation

    • Win-Win

  • Thaler and Sunstein’s Libertarian Paternalism

    • It is ethical to steer people’s behavior in order to make their lives longer, happier, and better.

    • But, people should not be “burdened” if they want to make another choice


Is this ethical

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.


Think about the behavior you wanted to change2

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?


Community based social marketing

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/training/index.htm


Final thoughts

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


Psychological underpinnings of un sustainable behaviors

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