We are at a time when we need a large number of people (entire societies) to change their habits in relation to the environment: reduce the use of private vehicles, monitor electricity consumption (and its origin), reduce the use of water, recycle … Most of us are aware that something needs to be done about it But, sometimes, we don’t really know what to do (here we need a certain pedagogy about the hows) and, other times, even though we know it, we can’t do it (like when we set the goal of exercising more and don’t do it).
So if we want society, and that includes each of us, to modify its behaviors, we need an approach that allows us not only to transfer information in a way that motivates the recipient to do something but also, needsystems to facilitate the fulfillment of the purpose that we have set ourselves.
In all this we find certain problems related to how we human beings decide that it is possible to give a different answer to the traditional ones. From Behavioral Economics, which for those of you who do not know us, we are the ones who work intensely to understand how people decide, we wanted to share the main problems that we have identified in this regard:
Present bias. Humans have a strong tendency to postpone sacrifices and anticipate rewards. It takes a lot of discipline to stop doing something that I feel like doing today in exchange for a benefit tomorrow. This problem is at the heart of the sustainability challenge. It never seems like a good day to stop taking the car or change the bulbs for led lighting. In the same way, it is never a good day to start a diet or start saving. We leave it to our future self, he can with everything.
Lack of feedback. Feedback is essential to learning a habit. We know that fire burns and that it should not be touched because if you touch it it will hurt you. Imagine that you touch it and, forty years later, it hurts. It would be very difficult to link one thing to another. In the Claro area on sustainability issues, the impacts are not seen for many years.
No marginal effect. A big problem we have in sustainability issues is that, in addition to not seeing the short-term impacts, we don’t see the effect of our individual actions. If I recycle but no one else does, it has almost no effect. The same if everyone recycles and I don’t. It becomes a dilemma in which we all know what we have to do but have no incentive to do it.
In short, these cognitive problems require us to have a different way of thinking about solutions, a more creative and focused vision on how people actually make decisions. It will not only be communication and general information. They will be messages that remind us of what others do, or how linked they are to our values as a society. As a whole. They will also be systems that give us individual and short-term feedback, through applications or other digital systems. It is a huge challenge but our interest and need is even greater. We must continue to bet on understanding and transferring with pedagogy how our behaviors work on a personal level and what moves us and demobilizes us to make or not make, together, a more sustainable world. We are doing a lot at it.
Enrique Belenguer Saborit, Behavioral Economics Global Leader