The story in Wednesday's USA Today (which would, I guess, make it USA Day Before Yesterday) is headlined "Psychologists determine what it means to think 'green'".
Those who make human behavior their business aim to make living "green" your business.Uh oh. Those who mind their own business, and think others should do the same, should read on.
Armed with new research into what makes some people environmentally conscious and others less so, the 148,000-member American Psychological Association is stepping up efforts to foster a broader sense of eco-sensitivity that the group believes will translate into more public action to protect the planet.Yes, an organization that bills itself as a "scientific and professional organization" is looking to spur "public action" in an area in which they have no expertise.
In other news, the Association for Computing Machinery will soon be offering diet tips and movie reviews.
"We know how to change behavior and attitudes. That is what we do," says Yale University psychologist Alan Kazdin, association president. "We know what messages will work and what will not."Ah, Professor Kazdin? Here's what doesn't work: telling people you're on a mission to improve the bad behavior and ignorant attitudes of the masses, to make them more like… well, you.
You gotta keep such arrogant pronouncements sotto voce, lest the rubes get wind of your scheme.
People have wanted to mold the "behavior and attitudes" of the unenlightened for years and years now. Does Kazdin really have some new social-engineering tools he can bring to bear on us? Reading on, here's some of the "new research" that promises to deliver us into eco-utopia:
Walking outside rather than inside — even for just 15 minutes — makes you feel happier, more energetic and more protective of the environment, found two studies involving 220 students conducted by psychologists at Carleton University in Ottawa.If your local psychologist starts demanding that you walk outside 15 minutes per day, this is why. It's all part of Professor Kazdin's plan, and has been proven effective by studies of 220 Canadian college students.
Negative feedback can backfire. In two studies, psychologist Amara Brook of California's Santa Clara University and colleague Jennifer Crocker of the University of Michigan asked 212 undergraduates about their ecological footprint. For those not heavily invested in the environment, negative feedback about their ecological footprint actually undermines their environmental behavior, they found.Translation: Nagging people, at least American undergraduates, about their eco-piggery does not work.
News stories that provided a balanced view of climate change reduced people's beliefs that humans are at fault and also reduced the number of people who thought climate change would be bad, according to research by Stanford social psychologist Jon Krosnick.Translation: the masses cannot be trusted to hear skepticism. If Professor Kazdin's plan is to come to fruition, these voices must be silenced!
Also interviewed for the story was "social psychologist" Jessica Nolan, who, like the psychologists above, had a captive research flock of undergraduates. She looked at "global warming, recycling and improper disposal of used motor oil":
She found that students are not particularly inclined to disapprove of the non-sustainable behavior of others.So another part of the strategy is, apparently, to turn Americans into a bunch of neighbor-eyeballing nags and scolds. Great. But what about Amara's and Jennifer's research findings on negative feedback?
"People showed strong approval for other students who recycled. You would hope to see people disapprove of people who don't recycle, but they didn't disapprove," she says.
But, she says, the response was stronger if the activity was perceived as more harmful: More students said they would scold someone if they saw that person improperly disposing of motor oil.
I know, it's USA Today, and that was fifteen whole paragraphs ago.
To paraphrase Lincoln Steffens: I have seen the future, and it's tedious, strident, self-contradictory, and stupid.