Monday, December 15, 2008

The Empirical Mind

At CSP we are committed to measuring the success of interventions to change people's behavior empirically – that is we want actual measure of things like energy behavior not people’s self reports. That is reasonably easy to do with a cooperating partner like a utility company. But what if you are interested in measuring changes in people’s attitudes? To my mind, the crisis of climate is much more a matter of winning citizen support for government policy than a matter of changing individual behavior. Individual behavior simply lacks the impact to make a difference – even in aggregate. It is not just that individual households are only part of the climate problem. It is more that changing our behavior is a function of the choices we have available to us and those are not under our control – even our collective control. Take public transportation. We may all be ready to take it but that is of no value if it is not there. And it won’t be there without a government decision to build it. But as government acts in the long run, its actions will inevitably chafe. Winning voter acquiescence for government action is therefore crucial. And so understanding how to do that is crucial as well. But how do you find an empirical measure of what works? Stay tuned.

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