Psychology: Some Other Bugger’s Backyard

I was reading a 2011 article by Elisabeth Rosenthal about how people generally say that they are for a greener Earth, but their actions show that this is only true when it doesn’t get in their way.  “Test yourself: When a sign in a hotel bathroom exhorts you to reuse your towel for the sake of the planet, do you nonetheless tend to throw it on the floor to get a new one?”  While most people agree that it is important to save the planet, they also feel that plans to save the Earth belong in “some other bugger’s backyard,” or SOBBY.

Interestingly enough, the people who truly believe in environmental conservation can get others to join the fight, but they have to persuade them in a different way.  “Professor Cialdini’s research has found that the best way to get a guest to reuse towels is to inform him that a majority of the previous guests in that room did not switch towels daily. Likewise, in a study to determine how to get people to reduce home energy use, conducted with Wesley Schultz, Professor Cialdini found that people were most likely to comply if told that all the neighbors were doing it — rather than informed that saving energy would save money or was good for the planet.”  People may agree that they should do things for the sake of the planet, but because “most people” have not made a move in that direction, most people have not done anything substantial if it’s not required by law.  This leads me to say that environmental activists should focus on advertising how conservation is the new “in” thing.  I also wonder if politicians have used this tactic before and how successful they have been.

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