A report on the Climate, Mind and Behavior symposia series that gathers environmental leaders across sectors to explore social, behavioral, and cognitive science theories and their practical application to environmental policies and programs.
The Garrison Institute held three Climate, Mind and Behavior meetings in 2011 and the resulting report includes theories and findings shared by symposia speakers, links to presentations and videos, and recommended resources. The following is a summary of the key takeaways related to climate communications and behavior change:
- We are not always "rational actors." Human often respond to information about threats (i.e. climate change) more viscerally than rationally.
- Behavior change is "infectious." Due to our "social brains," behavior changes can spread through social networks.
- Humans have cognitive, attentional and emotional limitations that affect our ability to process and respond to long-term threats.
- The public isn't apathetic about climate change, but is rather erecting defenses against anxieties.
- In order to change behaviors, people need to know that their actions are making a difference.
- Shifts in attitude often happen after people get engaged in new behaviors.
- It is important to create an environment where the default choices and social context help people make better choices.
- Storytelling is the best way to convey values, emotions and ideas.
- Behavior change often begins with neighborhood leaders and community-based initiatives that create new sustainable behavior norms.