SAQN home Forums SAQN Discussion Board Behaviour Change

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    • #521
      SAQN admin

      This was a discussion topic identified at our launch event, but we didn’t have enough social scientists available to discuss it! Some of the questions raised were:

      How can we engage the citizen and communities in our work, in order to increase the public awareness, demand and support of the clean air research actions, policies, etc.? Some examples might be: citizen science, working with NGO and civil organizations working on air pollution issues, other participatory approaches, etc.

      How do we influence people’s behaviour to make the drastic changes needed to reduce their emissions? How do we persuade people to take responsibility for their contributions, through behaviours and consumption patterns? Making explicit the link between behaviours and impacts.

    • #522
      SAQN admin

      Nigel Gilbert, University of Surrey
      From the point of view of a social scientist, the problem with this is that the question is posed the wrong way round! Instead of thinking about how ‘we’ (whoever we are) can change the behaviour of ‘them’, we should be thinking about how science can help citizens to understand their world better so that they can take action to achieve whatever they want to do.

      In practical terms, that means finding out what people want to do and what the barriers to them doing it are, and then providing them with the knowledge to overcome those barriers.

    • #523
      SAQN admin

      Peter Fleming, Campbell Associates.
      I would say you present the knowledge which will allow people to come to the “right” decision.
      We recently provided an AQY to monitor outside of a school. Diffusion tubes indicated that the AVERAGE NO2 conc was just below the 40ug/m3. However monitoring showed that levels were at their highest at the times when the children were arriving or leaving school. Presenting this data has shown parents that parking outside the school at these times was harming their children. This made it easier for them to accept behavioural changes. Indeed , once they saw the data it was the parents who instigated the changes.

    • #732
      Jean McKendree

      I am a cognitive and environmental scientist and I am not surprised that you didn’t have enough social scientists in your meeting. We are often forgotten, especially in “hard” science projects, until the end when people then want some sort of “awareness raising”, dissemination, evaluation or, indeed, behaviour change.

      I agree with Nigel that the questions often need to be considered differently. People are motivated by a myriad of values. There is no single way to get people to make changes, especially “drastic” ones. People are also often aware of the impact of their decisions, but they make those decisions for a reason. We may not agree with those reasons but people are almost never arbitrary in their choices unless it is something that doesn’t really matter very much to them.

      This is a problem with “nudging” – examples like automatically enrolling people in pensions works because many people, especially just starting out in the job market, don’t think about them that much and they are not very contentious. However, the same automatic enrolment for organ donation evoked a very large negative reaction.

      This long-winded message is basically to encourage MORE FUNDING for social science research and to ensure that all projects think about including appropriate expertise. We have some very exciting and innovative methods for getting at what people’s core constructs and values are that drive their behaviour which is the crucial first step in even thinking about how to encourage more sustainable behaviour.

      • #735
        SAQN admin

        Thanks Jean – we’re really keen to involve social scientists in the network. We were pleased that some of our Collaboration Building Workshop participants were from social science disciplines, but we do need more! Looking forward to discussing this further at our Air Quality & Social Science meeting coming up in January (details to be announced in the newsletter soon…)

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