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Undergraduates are rational, and other findings from Green Psychology

green brain.jpg USA Today has staked out the environmental-news angle on the annual American Psychological Association conference, ongoing this weekend. The behemoth meeting has some 16,000 attendees flocking to talks on everything from Pharmacotherapy to Peace Psychology. Those are actual topic headings in the programme, whereas Green Psychology is not. But the paper’s reporter Sharon Jayson cleverly rounds up a few ‘green’ presentations – new, unpublished research about how sustainability messages filter through the brain of the poor media-besieged layperson.

For example, scolding doesn’t work – and may lead the scolded to quietly give up on greening up. Though this study surveyed undergraduates, there is preliminary evidence that its findings also apply to presidential administrations.


In any case, it obviously needs to be further disseminated. A different investigation of student attitudes had one researcher worrying, “You would hope to see people disapprove of people who don’t recycle, but they didn’t disapprove.” The sum of the two results: undergraduate research subjects are rational.

From the You Already Knew That file: including a sceptical voice in climate news stories bumps down the audience’s confidence in a scientific consensus on climate change. As we’ve pointed out, that confidence is surprisingly low to begin with.

(From the More From Andy Revkin file: if you missed his great story on why the actually very solid consensus isn’t coming across, read it here.)

The most interesting finding:

Walking outside rather than inside – even for just 15 minutes – makes you feel happier, more energetic and more protective of the environment.

That’s definitely my cue to knock off work and go to the park.

Anna Barnett

Photo: Green Brain Jello by technochick

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    Marguerite Manteau-Rao said:

    I am a big believer of a ‘carrot and stick’ approach when it comes to climate change an other global sustainability challenges. Fear and hope need to be held in balance. One without the other will not work. Yesterday for instance, I felt it was important to instill a sense of reality into folks:

    http://lamarguerite.wordpress.com/2008/09/27/scary-reality-of-climate-situation-not-getting-through/

    Other times, I will emphasize solutions:

    http://lamarguerite.wordpress.com/2008/09/15/8-lessons-from-green_watch-energy-monitoring-on-twitter/

    if you like, you may follow me on twitter, at ‘lamarguerite’

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