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What if there was a way to influence people’s behaviours simply by changing our language?
Dr. Katherine Arbuthnott is studying this phenomenon to see how it can get people to act in
more environmentally friendly ways.
As a conservation psychologist at Campion College she sees people’s aversion to loss as
a way to motivate them to make more sustainable choices. Through her work she has
found that in a drought, for example, people would be more willing to conserve
water when they learn about what they will lose if they don’t, than what they will
gain if they do. In other words, communicating to people that they won’t be
allowed to water their lawns is more influential in changing their behaviour
than emphasizing how conservation will ensure everyone in their
community will have enough water.
While conservation psychologists can’t fix environmental problems
directly, they are able to provide insight into what stops people
from acting sustainability – a critical step in putting climate
change solutions to action.