Sunday, April 19, 2009


I'm taking a psych class on environmental stewardship right now, and while I'm thankful it's almost over because it had the slowest lectures ever, I've really learned a lot and I think this class might actually be useful in life. Granted, I'm in the middle of studying for the final, so my mind is full of minimum justifications and intrinsic motivations and educational models, but there's also the disproved misconceptions that people have about behavior change and some other important stuff I hope I remember past tomorrow at 3:30. 

While it's not the most critical thing we've discussed, the psychology of fear really struck me. Apparently, when we are scared of something, the only thing we want to do is flee. This applies to attempts at behavior change. While its so tempting to say "You should recycle or we're all going to die," trying to scare people into doing good, they're just going to ignore you. This is very frustrating to me, because it's easy to think that if everybody only knew what was happening to the world, they would try to help. Apparently, it's way more complicated. 

Another lecture I feel should be more widely understood is extrinsic motivation. This can be anything from a reward for an action, a penalty, feedback, or social praise. Tons of people think that the strongest motivator is monetary incentives - we see this from the government all the time in incentives and tax breaks. But in getting people to change their behaviors, these are not the strongest tools! I'm still figure out what exactly the best motivators are (it would probably help if I had paid more attention in class..) but I do know that money isn't the best. Furthermore, it often works once or twice, but never lasts. I can see how so many people would think otherwise, since everything in our country is so focused on the economy, but it's facts like this that could help so many incentives to work better if just more people understood them. 

How is anybody supposed to make a difference if we're going about it all wrong? And which way is right? I can't wait to figure it out. 

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