Human behavior effect on the environmentThe world is home to around 7 billion people and this number is growing daily, population is projected to reach 8 billion in the spring of 2024 (Collins, 2014). With a population of so many people even minor changes could have an effect on the world ecosystem. For instance if 7 billion people were to intentionally litter, our world would probably resemble a landfill. Human behaviors have both positive and negative effects on the environment. What we do matters. Human are social beings and behaviors are influence by multiple things, such as environmental cues,personal goals, cross-norm inhibition, and social norms (Steg, 2013). This presentation will look at how behavior is influence and how to modify behaviors to increase sustainability in both the urban environment and in the work environment. This presentation will also suggest two possible solutions that could change behaviors and lessen damage to the earth. ReferenceCollins, P. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/ Steg, L. (2013). Environmental psychology: An introduction. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell.Image from: http://www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/Environment/Environmental-information/Environmental-indicators/Community-and-economy/Sustainability/ecofoot-report/
Environmental Cues shapes BehaviorJust as people affect the environment, the environment also influence behaviors. This is done through clues or elements in the environment that communicate information or trigger an emotional reaction. According to the Goal framing theory, there are three types of abstract or overarching goals (Steg, 2013). These are: normative goals or goals toward keeping the social norms and legitimate rules, gain goals or goals toward improving or maintain resources such as money or status, hedonic goal are goals to feel better or at least not feel worst (Steg, 2013). Clues can strengthen or weaken which goals are being activated. A well maintain park with trash container will likely activated normative goals of not littering and well-design bike lanes and numerous people biking to work or school may activate normative goals of being environmental friendly and may even promote gain goals of saving in car expenses. Without adequate clues the hedonic goal of getting to work with the least amount of effort may predominate. Image from: http://www.businessinsider.com/best-accessories-for-bicycle-commuters-2013-4
Environmental Cues shapes Behavior-Cross-norm inhibition effectClues in the environment may strengthen or weaken a person desire to behave in a socially acceptable fashion (Steg, 2013). Socially acceptable behaviors could range from being helpful and kind to respecting the law. Just as clues may activate normative goals of respecting the law and social norms, it can also deactivate or suppress normative goals. When an individual see other people litter for instance, it may lessen this person desire to not litter. This could even lead to other socially unacceptable behaviors such as graffiti and more serious offense. This is known as the cross-norm inhibition effect (Steg, 2013). In fact a sign prohibiting an action in an area that show obvious disregard of the rule will actually increase the undesirable behavior. The reversal effect of the prohibition signs basically induce rather than reduce violation of the norm (Steg, 2013). One study using an area with and without graffiti and with and without an anti-graffiti sign, the results was that 37% conform to the anti-litter norm when only the graffiti was present compare to 28% when both graffiti and the anti-graffiti sign was present (Keizer, Lindenberg, & Steg, 2011). Prohibition signs do have a positive impact if there are no negative norm support clues such as graffiti. 68% conformed to the anti-litter norm when the area had an anti-graffiti sign and no noticeable graffiti compare to 53% in a graffiti free area without any signs (Keizer, Lindenberg, & Steg, 2011).
Social Norms influence behaviorsA social norm is defined as an expectation of an individual about how he or she ought to behave in a particular social situation; all cultures have rules and standards that are understood by members of that society or group. Social norm is what people should or should not do, for instance smoking in public were acceptable in the past but is no longer acceptable in most western country. Social norm have a lot of influence on behaviors and belief about the environment. There are two types of social norms, injunctive norms and descriptive norms (Steg, 2013). Injunctive norms are behaviors that are commonly approved or disapproved, whereas descriptive norms are the behaviors that are shown by most people (Steg, 2013). . For example most individuals in the U.S. knows that plastic bags are damaging to our environment and that it is better to bring reusable shopping bags, however it is more common to use the shopping bags provided by the store. Following social norms usually brings acceptance and information about how things should be use or done in certain situations (Steg, 2013). Creating social norms about energy usage and other sustainable behavior can be effective. A series of programs that send home-energy reports to give feedback on past energy consumption, energy conservation tips and compare their energy use to their neighbors for utility customers were fairly effective (Allcott, 2011). The highest users decrease their consumption by 6.3% while the lowest users decrease by .03% (Allcott, 2011). This program shows that injunctive norms were important to encourage low users to not increase usage. Household that use less than the 20th percentile were label great with two smiley faces, household that used more than the mean were rated as below average with no smiley faces and household in between the two groups were rated good with one smiley face (Allcott, 2011). Program for other sustainable behaviors may be just as effective. For example groceries stores that use reward cards could have a special color or design that customers can qualify for after using their own reusable shopping bags for a certain amount of times.
Social Norms and Beliefs about the Environment In most Western culture social norms usually support sustainable behaviors such as not littering or wasting natural resources, however as society become more crowed, people are often face with personal interest that conflicts with the collective interest or what is known as social dilemmas. There are three types of social dilemmas: large-scale dilemma deals with large group action with high anonymity and low communication and communal unity, resource dilemma focus on when people have to share a common resource, and public good dilemma is when people need to contribute to create or maintain a common resource (Steg, 2013). If individuals consistently choose to self-interest over collective interest, it will have a serious negative impact on the environment.Passing more laws and regulations are usually not the answer because it tends to be costly, inefficient and unpopular. Creating norms or activating norms that support sustainable behaviors may be more effective. According to Vandenbergh (2005) law should provide the necessary information to activate norms that are related to protecting the environment. Smoking is one example of this process. Rules about smoking have increase awareness about second- hand smoke and increase social pressure for the smoker to not smoke in public or around children. The rules about smoking may also activate personal responsibility about exposing others to the harm of second-hand smoke. This same process may be successful in cutting down dioxin emissions. Back yard burning of garbage is now the largest source of dioxin emissions at around 60% of all dioxin emissions in the United States (Vandenbergh, 2005). To activate social norms to change personal behaviors will involve addressing people's beliefs concerning the risk of their behaviors and by educating people about the consequence of their behaviors and encouraging individuals to feel a sense of obligation toward the common good.
Modifying Behavior to Increase Sustainability We have looked at social dilemmas where people have to choose between their own personal interest and the common good. The critical question now is how to motivate people to modify their behaviors to increase sustainability. Factors that increase cooperation include communication, response efficacy and environmental and social uncertainty (Steg, 2013). Communication also increase response efficacy, establish group norm which in turn reduce social and environmental uncertainty. Face to face communication increases cooperation by at least 45% (Steg, 2013). Response efficacy reflects whether or not people feel that their efforts will make a difference. For obvious reason individuals will be less likely to modify their behaviors if their efforts are insignificant. Education about the importance of small behavior change is important as well as sharing statistic about energy facts. For example the fact that if all the Sunday newspapers are recycled it would saved 500,000 tress each week (Albuquerque Public Schools, 2014). Environment uncertainty is uncertainly about the size of a common resource and social uncertainty is not knowing how other members are responding to a social dilemma. A person may know that recycling is good for the environment but if a person does not realized the impact of not recycling and is not aware that other members also participate in recycling, he or she will be less cooperative. Increasing cooperation in modifying behaviors to increase sustainability will decrease damage to the environment.
Modifying Behavior to increase Sustainability with HabitAnother major aspect to modifying behaviors is to create environmental friendly habits. Habits are behaviors that are repeated regularly or automatic decisions in certain situations and habits are often an automatic link between cues and behavioral patterns (Steg, 2013). Habits can be both good and bad when it comes to environmental behaviors, such as turning off the lights or burning your trash. However, strong habits can be an obstacle to incorporating new behaviors. Habit allow people to decrease the high cognitive demands of deliberate decision making, therefore we are less likely process new information (Steg, 2013). Many individuals have pro-environmental intentions but counter-intentional habits are working against them. Breaking bad habits can be difficult and interventions should involve changing the situational condition and encourage the person to use a concrete plan on when and where to implement the desire behavior (Steg, 2013). For example individuals attempting to break the habit of letting the water run while they are brushing their teeth may have to plan for the change. This may involve moving their toothbrush from the normal spot or putting a note on the mirror to change the situational condition. Over time and through repetition the new behavior is now a good habit.
Solution one-Increase Green Spaces Human behaviors do effect the environment but the environment also has an effect on humans. It has been well documented that nature or natural environment can promote health and well-being. Increasing natural environment or green spaces can be positive solution. In urban setting green spaces have a positive effect on the social, cultural, economic and environmental and it is a powerful tool for environmental sustainability. The benefit of green spaces are too numerous to name but it includes human health and well being, ecological benefits through reducing the urban heat island effect, pollution control , reduce noise pollution, conservation of species and plants and energy saving in heating and cooling cost (Haq, 2011). Another possible benefit of green space is the increase appreciation of nature, which may lead to pro-environmental attitudes and intention. Studies have shown that natural place attachment is associated with more pro-environment behavior (Scannell & Gifford, 2010). According to Nordh, Alalouch, & Hartig (2011) the benefit of green spaces is in the design rather than in size.Solution includes increasing parks and corner parks that are accessible to the neighborhood, bike paths through parks and natural areas all increase green space. Home residents could be encourage to plant trees and gardens and people be allow to set up vegetable gardens in vacant lots. The city can and should plant and maintain trees on streets when possible.
Human Behavior effect on the
March 1, 2014
Image from http://www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/Environment/Environmentalinformation/Environmental-indicators/Community-and-economy/Sustainability/ecofoot-report
What We Do Makes a Difference
Environmental Cues shapes Behavior
Clues influence strength of
Goal Framing Theory
Normative goals: Behaving Approximately
Gains Goals : Doing better
Hedonic Goal: Feeling Better
Image from: http://www.businessinsider.com/best-accessories-for-bicycle-commuters-2013-4
Social Norms Influence Behaviors
Make Sustainable Behavior the
Social Norms and Beliefs about the
Limiting Negative Environmental Impact
Personal Interest vs. Public
Make Hidden Information Visible
Image from: http://michigandistilled.org/2012/04/19/michiganfinally-bans-open-garbage-burning-some-of-it-anyway-sort-of/
Modifying Behavior to Increase
Decrease Damage to the Environment
Communication Raises the Cooperation
Increase Response Efficacy
Decrease Environmental and Social
Modifying Behavior to Increase
Using Habits to Modify Behaviors
Creating Good Habits
Breaking Bad Habits
Intervention to Change Routine
Increase Green Spaces
Natural Paths for Biking and Walking
Teaching the 3 Rs
Recycle, Reuse and Reduce
Reuse, Donate and Repair Items
Less is More
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PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT. Northwestern University Law Review, 99(3), 1101-1166. Retrieved from
Modifying Behavior to increase
Decrease Damage to the
Changing the Urban Environment
Emphasize Personal Relevance
Environmental Cues shapes Behavior
Cross-norm Inhibition effect
Reversal effect of prohibition signs
Violating rule may signal power
Image from: http://www.yurtopic.com/society/legal/ignored-road-signs.html