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Professor Geoffrey Beattie: Manufacturing a "Green Revolution" - some psychological considerations


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Presentation delivered by Professor Geoffrey Beattie, University of Manchester as part of the "Psychology of Persuasion" session at Communicate 2011. Communicate is the annual conference for environmental communicators and is an initiative of the Bristol Natural History Consortium.

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Professor Geoffrey Beattie: Manufacturing a "Green Revolution" - some psychological considerations

  1. 1. Professor Geoff Beattie, School of Psychological Sciences, The University of Manchester How to manufacture a ‘green revolution’ (some psychological considerations)
  2. 2. What are we facing? ‘The scientific evidence is now overwhelming climate change presents very serious global risks it demands an urgent global response’ (Stern Review, 2006)
  3. 3. The problem: ‘it’s as individuals that we live our lives and make our choices… Now we will have to adapt our choices to the new realities of the twenty-first century.’ (Walker and King, 2008)
  4. 4. The solution? ‘To achieve a mass movement in green consumption we must empower everyone – not just the enlightened or the affluent’. (Sir Terry Leahy, Tesco, 2007)
  5. 5. Easy! We’re all ready for the green revolution. • 70% agree that if there is no change in the world, we will soon experience a major environmental crisis. • 78% say that they are prepared to change their behaviour to help limit climate change. • 69% of consumers in China willing to change their lifestyle to help reduce climate change.
  6. 6. Is empowerment working? • Remote eye tracker to monitor gaze fixation points as individuals looked at images of products labelled with carbon footprint information.
  7. 7. Light Bulbs.
  8. 8. Gaze fixations. • Small black mark denotes where participants are looking. • Each gaze fixation scored every 1/25 sec.).
  9. 9. Results • Some eye gaze was directed at the carbon footprint of products (e.g. low energy light bulb). • Little was directed at the carbon footprint of a carton of orange juice. • Least visual attention at the carbon footprint of detergent (interestingly, the product tested with the highest carbon footprint).
  10. 10. But are we really ready? A lot of assumptions! 1. Consumers are ready to act. 2. They have the right underlying attitude. 3. Conscious (reportable) attitudes are the right measure.
  11. 11. But… • Everyone knows that green is good. • Is social desirability influencing the explicit attitudes? • Important components of an attitude might not be available to introspection.
  12. 12. So what else can we do? Measure implicit attitudes. • Implicit Attitude Test (IAT). • Computerised classification task (speed and error rate measured). • How quickly can you associate low or high carbon footprint with the concept of ‘good’ or ‘bad’? • Done by assigning items to categories by pressing one of two keys. • Harder to associate certain categories rather than others.
  13. 13. Overall correlation between explicit and implicit attitudes. • r = 0.19 • In other words, explicit opinions and implicit associations are often dissociated.
  14. 14. Conclusion. A familiar foreground where processing is: • Conscious • Controlled • Reflective • Intentional • Slow A hidden background where processing is: • Unconscious • Automatic • Impulsive • Unintended • Fast Human mind is divided into two largely independent subsystems –
  15. 15. Measures of implicit attitudes and the prediction of behaviour. • IAT is a better predictor of spontaneous behaviours (especially when behaviour under cognitive, emotional or time pressure). (meta-analysis of over 100 studies). • IAT is a better predictor of behaviour in sensitive domains where self- reports are likely to be biased. (Including racial discrimination, prejudice and environmental issues!).
  16. 16. New Results. • No significant correlation between explicit and implicit measures. • Significant number of consumers showed strong implicit preference for high carbon. • ‘Green fakers’ identified (strong explicit preference for low carbon, preference for high carbon or no preference).
  17. 17. How can we identify the ‘green fakers’? Potentially through their behaviour. Why would we want to identify them? They are in a state of ‘cognitive dissonance’ which may well affect their behaviour.
  18. 18. By studying speech and gesture, where imagistic gestures are: • Spontaneous • Multi-dimensional • Meaningful (without the benefit of a lexicon) • Unconscious (and therefore less open to editorial control) • Often back-up speech • Sometimes contradict it! • These are called gesture-speech mismatches.
  19. 19. Gesture-speech match Implicit/explicit attitude: convergent Speech and gesture: matching “Yeah if it was like [really high] and something was [really low] [and it was the same product], but there was a difference in price, then I’d probably feel really guilty about [buying the high carbon one] so [I would buy the low]”
  20. 20. Gesture-speech mismatch: evidence of dissociation? Implicit/explicit attitude: divergent Speech and gesture: mismatch “… if they were [next to each other] and it was quite obvious that [one was good] and [one was bad] then you’d go for [the good one]”
  21. 21. Does this help us predict behaviour? Implicit attitude, not explicit attitude, predicts green ‘consumer choice’ under time pressure.
  22. 22. Do implicit attitudes predict low carbon choice? High Carbon Low Carbon
  23. 23. Explicit attitudes do not predict this behaviour. MeanLikertscore
  24. 24. Implicit attitudes do predict this behaviour (under TP). MeanDscores
  25. 25. Targeting the implicit system Experimental study. Systematically manipulated price and CF. Measured implicit and explicit attitudes to determine effects on visual attention and ‘salience’ of labels.
  26. 26. Results (i) Mean time spent looking at CF was 12.2% with a range from 8.8% (low C.F./high price muesli) to 16.2% (low C.F./low price cake mix). (ii) Participants spent more time looking at C.F. than they did at price across the 16 stimuli. (iii) No relationship between measures of pro-low carbon implicit attitude and attention to CF information.
  27. 27. Encouraging the ‘green revolution’ • We need to understand that many people have implicit and explicit attitudes that are dissociated. • We need to find new ways of identifying them. • We need to understand the nature of the dissociation and how it affects people.
  28. 28. The ‘green revolution’ • We need to understand how those with dissociated attitudes process incoming information. • We need to find new ways of changing implicit attitude. • To empower consumers, we must make the carbon labelling information appeal to the implicit system.
  29. 29. The ‘green revolution’ • We need to consider the effects of mood on processing. • We must build mutual trust in people. • We must overcome feelings of helplessness. • We must make consumers feel that we really are in this together.