Our Top 5 Behavioral and Environmental Studies of 2022

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As we move into 2023, we want to share with the We Don’t Have Time community our favorite Behavior and Environment Studies of 2022. These articles applied critical environmental issues through a behavioral science lens.
Here are our Top 5 Behavioral and Environmental Studies of 2022:
1. Emotions are a vastly under-used tool in environmental initiatives, but they shouldn’t be.
The climate crisis is driven by human behavior, so why hasn’t human behavior been leveraged as a solution to solve the climate crisis? Rare’s Center for Behavior & The Environment researchers, Katie Williamson and Erik Thulin, authored a paper in the scientific journal Ecology & Society about tapping into human emotions in order to make a climate impact. They investigated emotions, such as fear, hope, shame, pride, anger, and interest, as drivers of environmental behavior change. Click here to read their research and learn more!
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2. Equity in behavior-centered conservation solutions should be the new norm.
The connection between equity and conservation has long been of interest to academia, and recently researchers have also begun exploring the relationship between behavior change and conservation. A paper has now been published by a team of researchers (Crosman et al., 2022) that analyzes the intersections between all three: equity, behavior-focused solutions, and conservation. The researchers argue that all conservation initiatives must center equity in all aspects of designs for solutions to be durable and successful, in addition to being just and fair. The authors provide specific recommendations for all stakeholders of a conservation campaign, all the way from the “agenda-setters” to the conservation practitioners on the ground. Click here to read their research and learn more!
3. Nudging, as a form of choice architecture, can positively impact behavior change.
Nudge theory, brought about by the behavioral economists Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, defines a nudge as any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people’s behavior predictably, without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives. Simply put: A friendly intervention that gently steers individuals towards a desired action. In the article, by Mertens et al. for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2022), they executed a large research analysis of over 440 pieces of existing research and found that choice architecture is influential in creating change. To read more about this article, click here.
4. Not only can nudging be effective in the right scenarios, but intentional, small-scale interventions can be used to combat climate change.
Zeroing in on reducing emissions in peoples’ everyday lives represents a considerable potential to solve the climate crisis. However, when should choice architecture be used to encourage people to make climate-friendly decisions? Adele Peters argues that nudges are only powerful in systems that allow them to be effective (e.g., a nudge initiative to increase biking in a city only works if the city’s roads are bike-friendly). Using nudging to encourage pro-environmental behaviors can actually lessen an individual’s impact on the climate, as long as it is done intentionally and with a mind to equity considerations. Click here to read Adele Peter’s article.
5. The long-term success of restoration efforts depends on behavioral science.
The application of behavioral science has largely been sidelined in restoration efforts, but the authors Gianluca Cerullo and Kristian Steensen Nielsen, argue in their article that implementing behavioral science is critical to seeing restoration efforts succeed in the long term. The pair argue that behavioral science can be applied in three meaningful ways:
  • List the behaviors that are causing ecosystem degradation.
  • Focus on the what, where, and why of restoration plans to include appropriate behavioral interventions.
  • Determine what behavioral strategies must be employed so that restoration continues beyond intervention.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our Top 5 Behavioral and Environmental Studies of 2022! Are you interested in keeping up to date with Rare’s work? We invite you to sign up for our newsletter, The Behavior Beat.
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  • Sarah Chabane

    73 w

    Great article! I will definitely bookmark these 5 studies

    • Markus Lutteman

      73 w

      Thanks for compiling this. From a storytelling perspective, I totally agree with number 1. Climate communicators need to work on how to make receivers of climate information feel something, instead of just feeding them the facts. Viable Cities’ chief storyteller Per Grankvist gave a good – and very entertaining – presentation about this at STHLM+50 Climate Hub. Watch it here:

      • Ford Brodeur

        74 w

        I like the Top 5 format! I enjoyed reading #4, especially about incentivizing people to ride bikes. If DC could improve its bike lanes, more people would bike to work!

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