Changing behaviour with information

Global Warming has a few causes and requires multiple interventions to change human behaviour. Often, psychologists and the general public think about curtailment behaviours – ones that requires us to use less – rather than efficiency behaviours- ones that perform same function but use fewer resources. There are some principles in conservation psychology which can be applied to change an individual’s behaviour with information. However, providing only information is not very effective for changing behaviours. Rather, paying attention to the way information provided is a way to improve the behaviour-change interventions.


This is one approach to make information more effective as this approach involves providing individuals with additional information of their consumption habits. For instance, the individual household can use simple feedback methods to track their energy consumption per month. This theory of feedback places its theoretical framework in the roots of operant conditioning (Skinner, 1938). If people are motivated to conserve energy to reduce their utilities bill, they will repeat the specific rewarding behaviour. Feedback needs to be given frequently in order to change the behaviour and it provides a more specific and valid information than a general brochure.


Information can be made more effective by using presentations which combine concepts from behavioural psychology and communicative research. Researchers had found programs demonstrating how people conserve energy were effective in enabling individuals to change their behaviour by conserving energy as well. Such research demonstrates ‘modeling’ as people were able to identify with the people in the video and hence, they imitated their behaviour (Winett, Hatcher, Fort, Leckliter, Love, Riley & Fishback, 1982).

 ‘Framing Messages’

Paying attention to how pro-environmental behaviours are described is also another way to enhance the information. Winett et al. (1982) mentions that labeling such behaviours as ‘energy efficiency’ is more effective than ‘conservation’ due to the connotations attached to the phrases. They posit that conservation is viewed as a sacrifice while efficiency is viewed as an optimal goal to strive for. Likewise, a study by Yates (1982) had found results which support the above statement. Hence, ‘framing’ the information of how individuals can be involved in pro-environmental behaviour is important as it has practical implications, which affect the success of campaigns against Global Warming.



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