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Advanced Social Psychology Midterm Examination Essay

1742 words - 7 pages

In social psychology, a person’s attitude is a “cognition that often with some degree of aversion or attraction (emotional valence), that reflects the classification and evaluation of objects and events” (attitude, 2011). Typically, attitudes are examined because of the desire to observe and understand one’s behavior. Behaviors are the “potential and expressed capacity for physical, mental, and social activity during the phases of human life” (human behaviour, 2011). Social psychologists have found that attitude and behavior can be influenced and even changed through different means of persuasion.
Doug McKenzie-Mohr studied how social psychological methods can be employed to persuade people to change their behaviors in such ways that will promote a sustainable environment for the future. According to McKenzie-Mohr, since the earth’s population continues to swell, resources must be used more competently. To persuade people to preserve these resources, psychologists have been looking at ways to overcome the difficult task of changing attitudes and actions. Community-based social marketing is a proposal for sustainability that not only offers suggestions on how to influence people to actively protect resources, but is also designed to look at potential barriers to change. It combines psychological knowledge and social marketing skills to create a successful means of promoting positive behavioral changes. The first step in the community approach is to select a behavior that needs to be changed. There are “two classes of environmentally related behavior: one-time and repetitive actions” (McKenzie-Mohr, 2000, p. 532). One-time actions require a person to make a change only once. This could be something simple such as installing a low- flow handle on a toilet. Repetitive actions are harder to market because they require a person to continue the change over time. Examples of repetitive behavioral changes could be walking to work instead of driving or committing to a weekly recycling program. Since repetitive actions often require a person to give up some type of comfort in their lives, a greater focus on how to implement such changes must be made. However, evidence from the success of the blue-box recycling program, shows that it is entirely possible to alter people’s attitudes and actions, regardless of whether or not they will have to curtail some personal comfort.
Since we are a society that is accustomed to consuming a lot of resources, enacting programs of sustainability that require repetitive change is difficult. To help such programs be successful, potential barriers to change must be identified. Even though finding barriers can add cost and time to a program, McKenzie-Mohr believes it is a crucial step in determining how people’s ingrained behaviors and attitudes can potentially sabotage a plan. “Psychological expertise in the use of focus groups, observational studies, and surveys can be particularly useful in identifying barriers to...

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