Human Behavior and the Environment
June 9, 2014
Human Behavior and the Environment
The environment is a recipient of the behavior of humans. This behavior can be positive, as in the case of green fuel alternatives or negative, as in the case of noise pollution. However, human behavior is not always simple when determining the source. Many points of input are present, one of them being environmental cues. “Cues are elements in the environment that convey important information or trigger an affective reaction” (Steg, 2013, p. 120). How a human responds and impacts the environment is determined by the cues and the message they convey.
Environmental Cues and ...view middle of the document...
Modification of behavior must occur by shifting the focal goal from hedonistic and gain to normative goals where the behavior is natural and expected or to “’act appropriately’” (Steg, 2013, p. 193). All behavior, and intentions for behavior, is reinforced or weakened through rewards and penalties, therefore, “Intention must be reinforced and supported across different situational contexts” (Manning, 2009, p. 4). When the goal shifts to normative, the individual focuses on choices that inflict the least amount of damage to the environment as a matter of course, such as using an electric vehicle or carpooling to work to reduce fuel consumption and emissions.
Social norms are rules commonly accepted within a group and guide behavior, either encouraging or restraining (Steg, 2013). People are programmed to seek acceptance and desire to be a part of the group (Manning, 2009). Therefore, behavior that is considered socially acceptable holds powerful sway over an individual’s decision making and behavior, especially as it is often subconsciously observed. To sustain behavioral changes, value must be created through the repeated act (Social norms, 2013), as “policy dictates a pro-environment behavior, the repeated act of that behavior will become second nature – and even part of a value system – for individuals required to do it” (Social norms, 2013, para. 5). There are two types of social norms: injunctive and descriptive (Manning, 2009). Injunctive norms in essence are behaviors perceived to be approved or disapproved by the group while descriptive norms are how people actually behave in certain situations. For example, an injunctive norm would be a sign that says, ‘Do not litter’ while a sign using a descriptive norm might read, ‘Thank you for helping us keep our park clean’. The method that utilizes social norms in the most effective manner is to employ a descriptive norm and create value for the sustainable practice through repetition of the behavior. “If the normative goal is strong, then people have respect for norms and their behaviour will reflect this respect” (Steg, 2013, p. 121).
Two Solutions to Change Behavior
There are many ways to approach the promotion of environmental sustainability including civic action, educational action, financial action, legal action, persuasive action, and direct behavior (Manning, 2009). In choosing one, there are factors to consider such as the region one lives, the financial impact, and the audience being addressed. However, there are two solutions that will work with most any group. The first solution is education and the second is policy changes.
Education can create and promote a new social norm. This tool can be used to raise awareness, teach specific steps to develop a sustainable lifestyle, communicate the value effectively, and empower one to take action. This step starts with an individual educating him or herself and implementing the changes. A person who...