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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Behaviour Change for Sustainability- Attitudes

"Unsurprisingly, a key determinant of our likelihood to engage in green behaviour is our attitude towards it. Do we think it is a good idea? Do we think our efforts will be worth it?

Attitudes are our judgments or evaluations towards a certain object or behaviour. Several studies, including a 2007 meta-analysis, have found attitudes to be among the most important factors predicting our pro-environment behaviour. So it is worth investigating how attitudes form, and how we can influence them.
Attitudes are assembled from three types of information: beliefs about the objects characteristics, feelings and emotions about the object, and information about past and current actions toward the object. For instance, we may have developed a positive attitude towards cycling through an analysis of its merits (belief), a good feeling that we get from it (emotions), or a series of successful cycling experiences (past actions). Often a combination of all three serve to create an attitude.
It is worth noting that knowledge alone does not necessarily change attitudes. For example, while knowledge is an important piece of the puzzle for people to start cycling, a number of other things will also affect a persons attitude towards cycling, such as perception of weather, safety and comfort.

Some attitudes are stronger than others, in terms of the extent to which they endure (persistence), their resilience to change (resistance) and the likelihood that they will result in behaviour. A major field of study involves identifying the factors which affect the strength of an attitude. One useful theory is the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM), created by Petty and Cacioppo in 1986. The ELM describes two ways in which we form attitudes. The first is the central processing route, whereby we are motivated and interested, and carefully weigh up the information which shapes our attitudes. Alternatively, we can use the peripheral processing route, whereby more superficial aspects of a message will shape our attitude. The extent to which we are likely to rely on each route is dependent on a number of things, including the degree of interest we have in the topic, and the relevance it has to us. For instance, when evaluating a green cleaning product, a passionate environmentalist may undertake their own analysis of its merits, rather than relying on the claims of the advertiser. A less engaged person, however, is more likely to be swayed by the claims of a celebrity endorser for example. Both may form the same attitude towards the product, but through quite different paths of attitude formation.

Evidence suggests that attitudes adopted via the central route are more likely to endure than those arrived at via the peripheral route. Because of the investment we make in coming to a careful decision, we are more likely to feel on solid ground, and will be reluctant to change our minds. When promoting sustainability, creating resilient attitudes is important, because the aim is to change behaviour – not just attitudes. In sustainability in particular, there is no shortage of excuses and opportunities to deviate from the path of “doing the right thing”, and therefore a strong commitment to persevering is often required. If people have made a mild commitment in response to a gimmick or emotive persuasion, it is easy for them to back down when it comes to following through with behaviour. If, however, they have come to a clear and considered conclusion about the best course of action, they are more likely to resist distractions and setbacks to follow through. The stronger and more resistant attitude they have formed will often prevail.

The difficulty, of course, lies in the fact that people increasingly feel overwhelmed by information, especially relating to climate change. We are also predisposed to take “cognitive shortcuts” when making up our minds about an issue, as we don’t have the capacity to analyse everything. The key to convincing someone that it is worth investing the time and effort required to shape a well-informed attitude appears to lie in the personal relevance of the topic. A number of factors make up perceived relevance, among them the degree to which it will “affect me personally”. This may provide an important clue as to the best way to communicate issues such as climate change. As long as people can distance themselves from the issues by seeing it as something that will happen to people in faraway countries, or to future generations, it will be difficult to instill durable pro-environmental attitudes that translate to behaviour. However, if our efforts to promote sustainability can be targeted and framed in such a way that the audience sees how it is directly relevant to something they value, the substance of the communication is more likely to be absorbed and acted upon."

This article was sourced from Awake -
Awake provides psychology-based services to support the development of sustainable behaviour in individuals, groups and organisations. Visit for more info

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Important Lessons from the Bible

Why Jesus came:
"that the world might be saved through him"
John 3:17

Who Jesus is going to use to save the world:
"For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God."
Romans 8:19

Our role on earth:
"The LORD God put the man in the Garden of Eden to take care of it and to look after it."
Genesis 2:15

The Five Pillars of A Christian Theology of Sustainability

1. God is the creator, sustainer and redeemer of creation.

2. Covenantal Stewardship (we have a covenant with God as stewards of the earth).

3. The creation-fall-redemption paradigm (God made a good world; human failure broke the relationships between god, man and creation; Christ provides hope for all creation).

4.Bodily resurrection(we will rise with bodies, not as spirits)

5.New Creation (a new Heaven and new Earth refers to a renewal and an earthing of heaven, not starting over).

Adapted from When Enough is Enough: A Christian Framework for Environmental Sustainability, Edited by R.J. Berry, Published by Inter-Varsity Press, 2007, Nottingham p43+