Monday, November 23, 2009

Changing attitudes

I recently gave a talk on why changing attitudes is more important than changing behavior – changing attitudes toward government climate policy. The UK is the only place I know of where a concerted effort has been made to do this. It is instructive to attend to what has been found to work and not work there (as reported by Futerra Sustainability Communications):
What does not work:
• Recent surveys show that people without children may care more about climate change than those with children.
• Fear can create apathy if individuals have no ‘agency’ to act upon the threat. Use fear with great caution.
• The evidence discredits the ‘rational man’ theory – we rarely weigh objectively the value of different decisions and then take the clear self-interested choice.
• Providing information is not wrong; relying on information alone to change attitudes is wrong.
What has been found to work:
• Compelling mental picture of the positive goal
• A choice between the goal or the problem
• A strong and memorable 5 year plan
• Citizen level specifics that fit the goal and plan
• Getting the public talking
• The need for a desirable and descriptive mental picture of a low carbon, climate change adapted economy to open all climate change communications.
• The vision must be positive and it must be salient (i.e. paint a clear, appealing picture).
• Describing a positive solution in response to a problem does not work; leading with the vision is the only way to ensure we are listened to rather than ignored.
• The vision must create social proof (i.e. imply that “everyone” now wants this positive future for their children).
• Make climate change locally relevant.

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