Goal-framing Theory and Norm-Guided Environmental Behavior

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Social norms have 3 components of ‘oughtness’: sense of importance (in comparison to other considerations like mood, preference, gain) ;disapproval of others transgressing the norm ;feel obliged to follow the norm oneself.

Neither internalisation or sanctions are enough, there must be wider social support, for the level of ‘oughtness’ to be desirable.

‘Small-number vulneability’ means one or a few people can ruin it for everyone, deviance is contagious.

“Small cues have large consequences” — graffiti increases littering.

Goal-framing theory works on a system of flexible modularity (how we organise cognitive and emotional processes) — e.g. hungry person focusses more on edible objects and thinks less about cost.

Overarching goals (e.g. act appropriately) influence focal subgoals.

Groups create collective foals (‘the social brain’ Dunbar, 2003), which require us to put ourselves in someone elses shoes.

Hedonic goal — improves how we feel right now

Gain goal — gathers resources for future use

Other people shift the weight of foals: tea/coffee honestly box — poster with eyes triples money left compared to poster with flowers; darkness decreases norm-guided behaviour; as do socially empty spaces (car parks).

Leaders have even stronger influence on norm behaviour.

“Social values can be boosted by public campaigns”, this ‘moralises’ evaluations — “the bigger the perceived threat and the more this threat remains on the public agenda, the more social values are moralised” and more action taken to realise this.

In regards to environment: pro-environmental values; demonstrated support of pro-environmental norms; support of self-regulation.

Increased interdependence means differing groups actually come to depend on similar core elements, “such as various forms of freedom, without which a social market system could not operate”.

From this values actually become more universal (read Shultz).

Therefore out ‘moral universe’ is more likely to extend beyond humans (e.g. nature rights), social values and biospheric values outweigh egotisic values (e.g. spending more on organic food).

However these norms are just as precarious as any others.

The more strongly someones values are altruistic the more likely they are to have pro-environmental beliefs. “Most indirect, via activating a feeling of joint production” — therefore greater moral obligation.

Acting in a community manner will = sense of belonging and a greater willingness to act.

The norm to ‘act environmentally’ is far to abstract and easily weakened, must be more specific (e.g. drive less) — but info is still not enough.

“What is needed is concrete low-level norms that are clearly instrumentally linked to the abstract norm, so that they can be flexibly replaces when the technology changes.” — Low-level concrete norms are implementation intentions (if-then sequences).

Concrete and frequent feedback reinforces norms and behaviour — helps stop hypocritical behaviour when feeling entitled because of previous morally good behaviour.

Government policy reduces need to self-regulation.

Designing out self-regulation doesn’t change values.




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Theodora Beck

Theodora Beck

An acquisition of thoughts and theories to initiate research into designing toward more sustainable futures.

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