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A Path to More Effective Activism

Posted on Mar 22, 2013
goldsardine (CC BY-ND 2.0)

People are likelier to join causes that present visions of a society that is warmer, friendlier and more moral than the one they live in than they are to support efforts that do not feature such outlooks, a study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin says.

The study’s lead author, Paul G. Bain of the University of Queensland, sought to explore academic and social philosopher Noam Chomsky’s principle that “social action must be motivated by a vision of a future society.”

Bain and his colleagues conducted eight separate experiments into “people’s vision of society’s future affects their willingness or unwillingness to support particular reforms,” The Raw Story reports. “The eight studies asked participants to reflect on how society would change by 2050 if climate change was averted, abortion laws were relaxed, marijuana was legalized, or various religious groups obtained political dominance.”

Combined with previous research, the findings suggest that people who are not convinced, for example, of the reality of the threat of climate change, can be “coaxed into pro-environmental positions” if the issue is presented as a matter of creating a more benevolent place to live, rather than solving specific economic, technological or ecological problems.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

The Raw Story:

“One challenge is to work out how to design policies to actually promote warmth/morality, and I’m discussing this with academics engaged in policy design and advice,” he told Raw Story. “The whole idea may sound a bit implausible, but if you think of it as ‘community building’ (bringing people together to promote social bonds) then it becomes more tangible for policy makers, as this is something they are able to consider in policy design.”

Bain noted the success of a community-driven effort in the deeply conservative city of Salinas, Kansas. By changing the conversation from climate change to enhancing the city, the Climate and Energy Project was able to convince residents to conserve energy and adopt renewable sources of power.

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