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Behavioural Change and Rational Choice Theory


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Behavioural Change and Rational Choice Theory

  1. 1. CPT737: Sustainability in Practice Lecture 3 Rational choice theory and the ‘value action gap’ Richard Cowell, [email_address] , Room 2.74, ext. 76684
  2. 2. Rational choice theory: <ul><li>RCT is a bundle of tools that seek to explain large-scale social phenomena (provision of public goods, collective action) on the assumption that individual act in a consistent way according to some assessment of costs and benefits </li></ul><ul><li>Best example of application to environment as a ‘public good’ is Hardin’s tragedy of the commons </li></ul>
  3. 3. Evolution of RCT: <ul><li>Looking beyond material costs and benefits, to non-material benefits (solidarity benefits, expressive benefits) </li></ul><ul><li>Applied by Rydin and Pennington to collective, political action, to explain why people act, with some issues, but ‘free ride’ with others </li></ul><ul><li>They looked at incentive structures offered by certain kinds of issues and groups: green space, air quality, beaches, and role of local media </li></ul>
  4. 4. Issues with RCT: <ul><li>Helps begin to explain why expressed values may not match actions, but … </li></ul><ul><li>Is our behaviour really always self-interested (and if our behaviour can always be described as ‘rational’, does ‘rationality’ mean anything?) </li></ul><ul><li>Issues with the assumptions (i) about rationality (what about relatively unreflective behaviour?) and (ii) where our sense of ‘costs’ and ‘benefits’ come from </li></ul>
  5. 5. Eurobarometer survey <ul><li>Please complete the attached survey </li></ul><ul><li>Reflect on the methodology: difficulties in answering; validity of the findings </li></ul><ul><li>What patterns can you find within and between countries? </li></ul><ul><li>What does it show about actual behaviour? </li></ul>
  6. 6. Blake’s analysis of the value-action gap <ul><li>Looked at UK Government’s 1990s ‘Going for Green’ initiative </li></ul><ul><li>Mass media awareness-raising campaign, including five point green code: ‘cut down waste’; save energy and natural resources’; ‘travel sensibly’; ‘prevent pollution’ and ‘look after the local environment’ </li></ul><ul><li>Used qualitative interviews to understand people’s responses </li></ul><ul><li>Why do you think there might be this gap? </li></ul>
  7. 7. Explaining the gap <ul><li>Information issues , and the poverty of the ‘information deficit model’ used by Government </li></ul><ul><li>Practical issues , like time, resources, space and facilities </li></ul><ul><li>Attitudinal issues , concerning lifestyles, allocation of responsibility, efficacy and trust </li></ul><ul><li>So, says Blake, we need to be more sensitive to context in which information is consumed, interpreted, and which shapes responses </li></ul>
  8. 8. ‘ Green architecture’ (Horton) <ul><li>Connecting identity and structural conditions </li></ul><ul><li>Horton emphasises need to understand material aspects of culture, rather than purely psychological ‘attitudes’ </li></ul><ul><li>He looked at objects, places, times involved in maintaining green activist identities in Lancaster – people ‘perform’ green identity through these spaces, which keeps them in line with a ‘green script’ </li></ul><ul><li>A ‘green architecture’ would be about creating things, times, spaces to make it easier to live a green lifestyle </li></ul>