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How can we find out what really motivates people and tap into those interests and values to effect lasting change?
Insights from neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and other fields - collectively called “decision science” - have been used for years to influence our behavior. Until now, decision science has generally been used (very effectively!) to induce us to consume more goods.
It is time for all cause movements to learn about decision science and use tools from this field for positive change.
Choices for Change will give environmental organizations, policymakers, and anyone who cares about the planet easy access to these tools and show how they can be used to make a difference in the world.
Part 1: We will describe the field of decision science (see below).
~ You will come away with an understanding of this popular field. And great discussion material for dinner parties!
Part 2: We will show you stories from all over the world of decision science in action. For example:
- Why weren’t people taking advantage of free home improvements that would lower their energy bill and how did a decision science team in the UK convince them to?
- How can messages be framed if we want people to cooperate and trust each other and how does the mention of money help lead to the tragedy of the commons?
- How did rangers in the Petrified Forest National Park effectively convince tourists to stop removing petrified wood and how can we use these same lessons to protect corals reefs?
Part 3: We will draw on the growing body of decision science research to make further recommendations on how to use decision science tools for the environmental movement. This section will also be applicable to other cause movements.
~ You will come away with an understanding of how to USE this field in your work.
Part 4: Finally there will be section with recommendations for all of us as individuals.
~ You will come away with an understanding of how to USE this field in your everyday life.
How can decision science help the environment?
Protecting the environment is all about changing behavior, yet few environmentalists or policymakers are applying the insights gained from decades of research on how to influence decision-making and change behavior. Instead many of their tools are rooted in the idea that we can use argument and awareness-raising and these two things will lead to behavior change. What decision science tells us is that human behavior and decision-making is much more complicated than that. We unconsciously use shortcuts when making decisions. We have many cognitive biases that distort our perceptions and decisions – e.g., we often see patterns where there are none, we make up stories to fill in gaps in our knowledge, we fear loss more than we value gains, etc. We see and respond to the world in different ways depending on what context we are in.
The challenge now is to assimilate all this science and apply it in ways that help people make the right choices for the environment.
We are taking on this challenge! Our book will illustrate existing environmental examples of decision science in action and suggest new solutions using principles derived from decision science.
Can you tell me more about decision science?
Cognitive scientists, social psychologists, behavioral economists, and others have learned much about why people behave the way they do, the social and unconscious influences on judgment and decision-making, and how to change behavior that is destructive to oneself or to others. This group of disciplines is often called Decision Science.
Recently there has been a movement, especially in the health and psychology fields, to apply these sciences to help change destructive behaviors.
What's an example? Let's play a game:
Choose either A or B. Try not to look at the other section. After you have finished, scroll down to the final section and then the explanation.
Now, fill in the missing letter to complete the word below.
If you unscrambled words in section A, and you are like most people, you will have filled in the missing letter to spell ‘soup’ and if you unscrambled words from section B and you are like most people you will have filled in the missing letter to spell ‘soap’. If so, this game ‘primed’ you. The same thing would have happened from exposure to photos related to eating (or washing) or a story containing words such as eat, spoon, diet, cookie, or fat (or laundry, lye, shower, shampoo, or bar).
Priming can also impact our behaviors. For example, in one experiment those primed with the words Florida, gray, and forgetful were primed with the concept of ‘old’ (sometimes without even knowing it) - and then the concept of ‘old’ primed them to walk more slowly than those in the experiment exposed to neutral words. More disturbingly, in another experiment, those exposed to rude words were more likely to interrupt the experimenter than those exposed to neutral words (and both of these groups interrupted more than those exposed to polite words).
Priming is powerful and ubiquitous.
Here is a positive way we can use priming: Imagine that you are convening a meeting where you want loggers and environmentalists, who hold different positions, to reach consensus on a key issue, such as how many trees may be logged from a critical habitat area. If you play a game before the meeting convenes (such as a get-to-know-each-other icebreaker game), where all participants need to work together to ‘win’, participants are more likely to work together during the meeting than if you play a game where everyone is competing and the winner takes all.
What's another example?
There are numerous examples of decision science illustrating ways to improve our behaviors around health. Here is one of Tonya’s favorites:
Rod asks you to remember a two-digit number (such as 42) and asks your friend to remember a seven-digit number (such as 4238537). Then he tells you both to walk down the street to where Tonya is waiting to see if you remember your number. On the way, you both are stopped and offered dessert. Would you like a hot fudge sundae or fresh berries? Research shows that you and your friend will make your dessert decision in very different ways. You, with only two numbers to remember, are able to focus attention on evaluating whether it is in your best interest to have the hot fudge sundae; maybe you already had sweets today, maybe you are lactose intolerant, maybe it is almost lunchtime, or maybe you decide it is okay to have a sundae. The point is, you can do the cognitive work required to make a good decision. Meanwhile, your friend is “cognitively busy” and doesn’t have as much cognitive capacity to devote to this question; she is focusing a lot of attention on keeping track of the assigned number and is much more likely to just choose based on what she wants -- and most of us want the comforting sundae.
We can use the AWARENESS of how our decision-making abilities change when our attention is divided, or when we are stressed, to set ourselves up to make better health decisions - such as not eating at our desk while working during lunchtime!
Are there other popular books in the field?
Many books that have been written about what we are learning from decision science, including Blink (Malcolm Gladwell), Thinking Fast and Slow (Daniel Kahneman), Nudge (Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein), Switch (Chip Heath and Dan Heath), How We Decide (Jonah Lehrer) and Predictably Irrational (Dan Ariely). These are great summaries of decision science insights with some applications to policy, but they include very few conservation examples; none focus on the environment.
Our book will benefit from the wave of interest in this field but fill an important niche: applying decision science to solve some of the most pressing environmental problems.
***Complete descriptions are in the right-hand column.***
$1 – Gratitude and exclusive backer updates!
$10 – A digital 'sneak peek' of Choices for Change sent to you before anyone gets a printed copy.
$15 – [Fast Track] A preview of early findings including results from our conference with leading decision scientists.
$15 - DIGITAL COPY: A digital copy (such as a Kindle edition) of Choices for Change.
$20 – [Early Bird Special - Limit of 50] A copy of Choices for Change.
$25 – A copy of Choices for Change.
$35 – A signed copy of Choices for Change.
$50 – Your name in the acknowledgements section + a signed copy of Choices for Change.
$75 - UPDATE: NEW EXCITING REWARD
We have just finalized plans for a ***NEW REWARD*** we are very excited about. Come learn about Decision Science (and some Game Theory) during this interactive event. We will be passing out 'money' and then running you through the experiments made famous in these fields, with explanations to follow. We will also be conducting an experiment, designed to answer an environmental question, that may make it into the book! There will be prizes and food. This event will take place in SAN FRANCISCO in May of 2014. Sign up for this exciting reward on the right.
$80 – Four copies of Choices for Change to share with friends and co-workers.
$100 – Invitation to the book launch party in San Francisco + a signed copy of Choices for Change.
$200 – [Fast Track] Chapters delivered to your inbox as they are written, with an opportunity for you to provide input + a signed copy of Choices for Change.
$250 – Environmental decision science consulting + a signed copy of Choices for Change.
$500 – [Fast Track] Invitation to an intimate conference with leading decision scientists + a signed copy of Choices for Change.
$750 – Environmental decision science consulting or an invitation to an intimate conference with leading decision scientists + a printed thank you in Choices for Change + five signed copies to share with friends and co-workers.
[Free US shipping for all rewards! For international shipping, please add $10. Please note that your country may charge additional taxes or duties.]
Fast Track vs Regular Rewards
A book like this takes a lot of time. Time to research and find the best and most helpful examples of decision science being used to help save the planet. Time to discern new ways to apply decision science to environmental problems. Time to write. Time to have those on the front-line of the science edit and weigh in. And time to publish. And we have other jobs! We estimate a Choices for Change will be on bookshelves in May of 2015.
For those of you who want something while you wait for the book release, we are offering Fast Track rewards:
- Conference invitations
- Sneak peek at results
- Collaboration invitations
For those of you who don’t mind waiting, we are offering the finalized product track:
- Published copies (the Friends and Colleagues Package is your best bet!)
- Book launch party invitations
- Decision consulting
Writing a non-fiction book based heavily on research and careful editing costs a great deal in both time and money. It is a massive undertaking, but one that we think is vital to the future of our planet. We are applying for funding from other sources and personally investing in this project. Our Kickstarter funding goal is modest and the book will benefit greatly by us exceeding our goal. We’re setting our initial goal at $12,000 – this will meet our need for the research and writing costs necessary to get this project to the state where it is fundable by foundations and grants, in addition to the money necessary to get everyone their books.
- We are planning a workshop with leading decision scientists to harness their collective knowledge and ALSO to develop some key initiatives that put decision science into practice for the environment, before the book even comes out. [The contributions that will come from these workshops for our book (transferring ideas, realities and wisdom from their heads directly to our pages) cannot be overstated.]
- We would like to hire a research assistant to allow us to focus our time in the most effective way, fact check everything and then fact check it again, and organize our conference with decision scientists and those of you who want to participate (see our rewards).
- And, in the final phases, we need copy and content editors, a story teller (see below) and to cover marketing and distribution costs.
- Additionally we would like to create outreach materials (and possibly events) to help design and implement projects.
Therefore, here are our initial plans for ...Stretch Funding
$14,000 – STORY TELLER GOAL. If there is one thing we have learned, it is that we (like most people) learn, retain, and teach information more effectively when information is shared with as much good story-telling as possible. We are scientists, not storytellers. We are positive this book will be very informative and well written if we write it. We are also positive that if we have a storyteller to consult with us on this book, it will be read by more people. We want a lot of people to read this book. We certainly hope we can achieve this goal! Thank you.
The more funding we have now:
- the less additional fundraising we need to engage in
- the more we can focus all our time on research and writing
- the sooner we publish
- the sooner Choices for Change is in the world working its magic
- and with enough funding we can ensure this book is published as we want it - without having to make any adaptations to accommodate publishers (e.g., that may want us to take important parts out for various political or other reasons).
Tonya Van Leuvan
I became interested in human behavior and sustainability at the same time, but it is with this project that I will be fully combining my anthropological and environmental studies for the first time! During the past six years my conservation work has focused on the application of research in institutional design, sociology, economics, and other fields to create policies and design principles that facilitate rational environmental decision-making, especially in fisheries. I met and worked with Rod during the four years I spent at Environmental Defense Fund. After my daughter left for college I was able to devote a block of time to traveling to many remote parts of the world, and sometimes what I saw brought up hopelessness about the future of our planet. In the Everest area, for example, where much funding has been offered for environmental clean-up, I was shown the villages to where waste was merely moved out of tourists' and funders' view. From this experience I reflected on what components could be added to the tremendous work of organizations around the world to make them even more effective at this critical time. It became clear to me that we need to incorporate decision science tools into the environmental movement. I am delighted to write a book that I see as having the potential to halt and reverse many of the world’s environmental problems.
To view Tonya’s profile on LinkedIn click here. Tonya has co-authored two books: Catch Share Design Manual, Volume 1: A Guide for Managers and Fishermen and Catch Share Design Manual, Volume 2: Cooperative Catch Shares. To view Tonya’s twitter feed, click here.
I found my passion on April 22, 1970 – the first Earth Day. After that, I was motivated by a desire to make the world a better place. At first, I thought the key was to understand the natural world in order to protect it, and so I studied math and science and eventually became a marine ecologist. But when I left academia and got out into the real world, I soon discovered that conservation is much more about understanding and managing humans than it is about fish or corals. The fish and corals do just fine on their own, if we can manage human behaviors that are detrimental to them. We have good scientific tools to characterize threats to the natural environment, to figure out good limits, and even how to restore damaged animal populations and ecosystems. But despite all that, biodiversity and ecosystems – particularly along the coasts where people are concentrated – continue to degrade at alarming rates. Just telling people to stop harming ecosystems is not working, nor is simply providing information on the effects of their activities always effective. We need to find out what really motivates people and how to tap into those interests and values to protect the environment. And that is what this book project is all about.
To view Rod’s profile on LinkedIn click here. Rod has authored Heal the Ocean and dozens of scientific and popular articles. To view Rod’s twitter feed, click here. Rod’s blogs are here and here. To learn more about Rod’s work click here.
Risks and challenges
Rod has a scientific publisher already interested in our book. We both have scientific backgrounds and so this seems like a great fit…. except that we would like for this book to reach popular non-fiction readers as well. A challenge for us will be to write to this audience, instead of science-geeks. But the worst-case scenario is that this book is STILL published!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.
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