Video Review: Top 10 Myths of Behaviour Change

Laurence Menhinick watches a 30 minute video on behaviour change and comes away impressed…

“ People just don’t care and are too lazy to do anything about climate change”
“All it needs to work is regulations or incentives”
“We need to educate more”

Sounds familiar? Rings true even? Well they’re all myths according to Ruben Anderson who asks you to think again and act where it counts in this behaviour change video.

Within 30 minutes, Anderson exposes all pre-conceived ideas as mere clichés and in fact:

  • We live in information overload: leaflets notoriously bring poor results
  • Regulations won’t be enough to make a difference
  • Offering incentives can actually make the problem worse – as temporary schemes reap temporary rewards

If you also consider that quite frankly awareness of climate change is already high, the reason information doesn’t translate is because change is “pain and fear”: yes, once again my friends, the key to behaviour traits lies within the human brain (which has a lot to answer for!!).

Anderson uses the value circumplex ( also known as the Leary circumplex, a circular chart where characteristic human behaviour and values and displayed in relation to each other) to demonstrate that altruism and financial considerations for instance are at complete odds, in which case fines or incentives in effect switch off emotional response and behaviour change.

He also delves into the brain’s limited attention capability- with only 3hrs a day of active deep thinking available, most of our actions are in fact automatic, and any call to changing habits demands valuable brain power, hence it’s easier to do as usual. Now, to overcome all these “brain protection schemes”, you have to work with the system and reduce the amount of effort required to act. For instance, if you change the default behaviour so that the environmental option is the easiest and opting out requires an effort, you’ve hit the proverbial no-brainer. Eventually, when new reflexes are repeated over time, new neuronal paths are strengthened and they become the automatic behaviour norm… So, Anderson advocates to :

  • encourage positive reinforcement,
  • make the default (sought) behaviour easy,
  • engage people emotionally
  • and above all expand social proof

Since your behaviour is influenced by what is happening around you (we’ve all seen it with littering: if it’s already dirty it’s OK to do it too), if we make good practice very visible it is bound to influence others and change their behaviour too. A sort of activism by stealth then…

Laurence Menhinick

About manchesterclimatemonthly

Was print format from 2012 to 13. Now web only. All things climate and resilience in (Greater) Manchester.
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6 Responses to Video Review: Top 10 Myths of Behaviour Change

  1. leavergirl says:

    So what’s the “good practice”?

    • Laurence Menhinick says:

      Hello, thanks for the question,
      I took it to be a kind of “keeping up with the Jones”. In his video, Anderson gives a few examples relating to his area of interest which is recycling. Since social proof is a very strong generator of change, the good practice of recycling must be seen-and even talked/ tweeted about to influence others, and it worked where he is (I think it was a town called Barnaby). I expect the same can apply to cycling to work, buying less, composting, etc. In fact the spread of water butts and compost bins seemed to happen just like that in the past few years, it’s exhibiting the items in gardens that made it fashionable in a way… ( unfortunately the same happened with large trampoline in my street too..) .

      The difficulty is in making the new behaviour the easiest choice. A quick example where I am is that we don’t have to separate our recyclables any more and separate boxes have been replaced with an “all-in-one” bin. This should make the recycling habit easier: no need to decide what goes where etc. However, according to my bin men, the real effects are very localized: in some areas people care, in others they can’t be bothered still. A clear case of I’ll do what the neighbours do. He also added that people don’t realise that in fact recycling bins service is free…whereas black bins (ordinary/landfill) waste isn’t…

      • leavergirl says:

        Thank you, Laurence, for responding.

        How is recycling and bicycling or buying less going to deal with climate change? What about the Jevons paradox?

  2. egmont says:

    ‘Explain your three letter acronyms. Better yet, don’t use them.’

    I had to laugh at this after your ‘ahps’ episode.

  3. Someone calling themselves “egmont” has submitted the following comment.

    ‘Explain your three letter acronyms. Better yet, don’t use them.’
    I had to laugh at this after your ‘ahps’ episode.

    Egmont is referring to an exchange with a troll, now on the spam-list, from a week or so ago. Fair point, egmont, fair point. We will be more careful with the TLAs in future. Do you have a website where you lay out your views on climate change and what should be done about it?

  4. Laurence Menhinick says:

    Hello again,
    I think it is a case of walking in the right direction, and you have to start small. The impact of recycling or cycling on their own may not look or feel consequent but I’d argue that once you’ve become aware you’re constantly going to find something else to question and improve on and you build up a set of new rules to apply to your decisions. So next you consider your foods, then having less new stuff which used new resources, then wasting less energy at home, then flying less etc.. The impact on the environment increases.
    For me it has also increased the burden of my own responsibility and there is a deep guilt whenever I am going against this new direction. In the end also, if I am careful and consistent the rebound effect should not happen because it would go against my new principles.

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