Information doesn't drive behavior change; Identity does



by Maraya Cornell

Published on December 01, 2010

  • The public’s (non)reaction to the mountains of data in support of human-driven climate change should be of interest to anyone engaged in an attempt to influence behavior through messaging. Whether you’re a card-carrying environmentalist or not, this phenomenon deserves attention because it indicates that our attempts at making the world a better place through the dispersal of information are bound to fail. In Behavior change causes changes in beliefs, not vice versa, David Roberts explains why Al Gore’s strategy of emphasizing the magnitude of the climate change problem in order to drive behavior change didn’t work.

    Information and logic don’t drive people’s behavior — even if they think it does. Roberts says that it’s behavior that drives beliefs. And what, then, drives behavior? Identity. We do things to enforce who we think we are. So… if you want to change behaviors, you must appeal to your audience’s sense of identity.

Latest Comments (1)

Social norms trump information in energy use too

by Wendy Pollock - December 01, 2010

Also relevant for museums is an article from the American Council for an Energy Efficient America Roberts points to. It concludes: “Making energy use visible, setting measurable goals, marketing relevant benefits, leveraging social norms and networks, promoting competitions and goal setting, and speaking to non-economic motivations all appear to increase energy savings.” Thanks for calling attention to this, Maraya!

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