Using Social Science to Encourage Climate-Friendly Behavior

blog-psychology-9.18.15At ecoAmerica, we are strong believers in the value of psychographic, social science, and communications research in finding effective ways to engage people on climate issues. It appears President Obama shares this view. As this Scientific American article reports, he has requested that federal agencies use behavioral science insights to help increase participation in energy efficiency and other climate-related programs.
 
The administration’s Social and Behavioral Sciences Team has been testing ways to change behavior – for example, tapping into people’s competitive nature to get them to conserve energy, or making the desired behavior the default and requiring people to opt out rather than opt in. They’ve also made efforts to explain the benefits of programs more clearly, streamline application processes, and provide more immediate incentives – all proven techniques for increasing buy-in. As Andrew Hoffman, a social sciences professor at the University of Michigan and a member of our Research Council, puts it, “To bring in the notion that humans are not perfectly rational, utility-maximizing beings in the formation of policy is long overdue.”
 
For more ways to promote positive behavior and build support for climate solutions, download our report, Connecting on Climate: A Guide to Effective Climate Change Communication.
 

Obama Seeks Psychological Help with Climate Change

By Evan Lehmann and Climate Wire for Scientific American
 
The social sciences could help combat global warming
 
President Obama is seeking psychological advice about climate change.
 
Yesterday, he issued an executive order instructing federal agencies to use behavioral science when developing programs to address rising temperatures and other policies. That’s the stuff of sociologists, psychologists and behavioral economists.
 
The administration suggests that behavioral cues, like comparing your energy use with a neighbor, can be used to increase participation in energy efficiency and other federal goals. The White House created a group last year to experiment with strategies to change behavior. It’s called the Social and Behavioral Sciences Team, and it’s testing methods that might get people to act differently.
 
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