Monday, December 6th, 2010 | Our Philosophy
The ‘fun theory’ got people to take the stairs by turning them into a piano for a day. The behaviour stuck, even once the keyboard had gone.
Environmentalists seeking to influence behaviour often err in assuming that people are rational – that they will fear negative consequences and want to save money.
Professor Tim Jackson of the University of Surrey RESOLVE programme thinks that not only is this simply wrong, but that it “denies people their humanity”. Insulating your doors and windows might save £50 and not cost much money, so an economically rational person would do it. But hardly anyone does, because it takes time. People – with jobs, children, the gas bill to pay, lawn to mow, washing to do, insurance to renew – will spend a precious spare hour in ‘quality time’ – with their partner, with their children, watching the cricket. To expect that they’ll trade it in for £50 off their energy bill is to diminish the people and joys in their life.
Yet we need to influence them. A good place to start is remembering that people want fun – and only (normally) respond to threats if they’re very specific.
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