I blog about environmental and social justice issues because I am very concerned about the health of the interdependent web of life of which we are a part.

Melting Arctic ice.......beautiful and frightening!

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Changing Minds Part 2

The short answer: use peer pressure.

Recent research suggests that much of our consumption stems from a deep desire to fit in, to do what others do. While Murtagh has been finding ways to be diplomatic with neighbours who don't want to walk their children to school, she has been documenting similar attitudes in working parents across the UK. In a 2010 study published as a working paper at the University of Surrey6, Murtagh, and colleagues Birgitta Gatersleben and David Uzzell surveyed parents who earned at least £25,000 per year and lived in suburban or urban locations. In their sample, participants made 80% of their trips by car (compared with a national average of 71%) and 52% of their trips to school by car (also higher than the national average of 43%). More than 70% said that being a driver was important to their identity, behind being a 'parent' and 'worker', suggesting their decision to drive is partly governed by how they think others perceive them....although peer pressure may prompt us to continue driving, it can also provide the necessary incentive to switch to more sustainable behaviour. In a study motivated by reports of the enormous popularity of the Toyota Prius hybrid car in the US, even after tax rebates there ended, Vladas Griskevicius of the University of Minnesota and colleagues found that status-seeking motivates individuals to buy greener products more strongly than any desire to save energy and reduce emissions. Writing in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2010, the team reported the results of a series of experiments on the motivators behind shopping behaviour7.       ....All this suggests that we have barriers to deal with in ourselves. Some social scientists now argue that understanding how we care on an emotional level, known in the field as 'affect', is the only way to motivate society to change its energy use. “If we are recognizing a gap between what people say and what they value,” says Renee Lertzman, a climate and behaviour consultant at Portland State University, “we want to understand what's going on with people: conflict dilemmas, contradictions, ambivalence.” In other words, we need to psychoanalyse people a little bit, she acknowledges, and understand the gloomy, melancholy side of how people are facing climate change.

The slightly longer  answer:   use peer pressure; target your audience, understand them and their values, and use language they understand in an effort to get them to change driving habits  or to conserve energy.

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