Ella Matsdotter's post

Human behaviour and climate change - Can shifting social norms help mitigate climate change? How can we bring about collective climate action and speed up policy change? An interdisciplinary team of researchers in the latest issue of Psychological Science in the Public Interest, presents findings on how social norms, thus 'patterns of behaviors or values that depend on expectations about what others do and/or think should be done', and changes is such, can not only help create political pressure for increased climate action, but also lead to more pressure for change in legislation, regulation, and market-based solutions implemented at both local and national, but most importantly, global levels. In the paper, Sara M. Constantino, an assistant professor at Northeastern University and lead author on the paper, and her colleagues review literature on how social-norm change occurs and behaves, and how the tendency to conform or coordinate with others can drive rapid social change, as well as the circumstances under which this is most likely to happen. They explain, that by essentially harnessing the power of social norms, and their constant changing nature, we can speed up and expand climate action and interest. This they claim can take two interrelated forms: such as social-norm interventions, which attempts to increase the societal adoption of sustainable social norms within certain social networks; and social-tipping interventions, which aim to generate change that disrupts previous unsustainable norms. The former "can reshape individuals' and communities' behaviors by correcting social misperceptions and/or by rendering visible the prevalence of certain private behaviors (e.g., water and energy conservation, recycling, voting)". Whereas the latter utilizes more substantial interventions such as subsidies which then is used to incentivize change in a subset part of a specific population, thus "'tipping' societies toward a new social norm even in the absence of sustained interventions" due to the adoption of more sustainable practices, behaviours and beliefs which subsequently leads to broader social change. The paper emphasizes the importance of caution when attempting to implement such change, where the perceived threats to people's sense of agency and autonomy, or even on a larger scale, the sovereignty of states, can become 'roadblocks' impeding widespread societal change. Likewise, the phenomenon known as "moral licensing", where some implemented climate actions lead to individuals or even whole subsets of populations feeling they have 'done enough' and thus reducing further action. We need to change the system, to change the climate! Source: Sara M. Constantino, Gregg Sparkman, Gordon T. Kraft-Todd, Cristina Bicchieri, Damon Centola, Bettina Shell-Duncan, Sonja Vogt, Elke U. Weber. Scaling Up Change: A Critical Review and Practical Guide to Harnessing Social Norms for Climate Action. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 2022; 23 (2): 50 DOI: 10.1177/15291006221105279 Picture: https://sites.uoguelph.ca/gier/human-behaviour-and-climate-change/

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