December 4 , 2012
Environmental Psychology II
Last week: Defn: Environmental psych is concerned with
1. Understanding the effects of natural, built & social environments on people; and
2. Understanding effects of people on environments
Why do people threaten the environment
How can we change their behaviour
We’re dealing with a classic social dilemma
Part 1: Two-Person (Prisoner’s) dilemma
Part 2 Social dilemmas involving larger groups
Resource Management Dilemma: Take too much of a limited resource;
Public Goods Dilemma: Don’t give enough.
Part 3: How can we resolve social dilemmas (or increase cooperation)
Note: With RMD, take as much as possible to maximize short term benefits; with PGD, give as
little as possible to minimize short term costs. So…
A. Change the short-term payoff structure:
Increase “costs” for non-cooperative behaviour (punish it)
- Fines (for not paying taxes; polluting)
- Fees for garbage bags.
Note: Less effective if people believe
a) They won’t get caught;
b) Punishments won’t be given.
Increase “rewards” for cooperative behaviour:
- Free lottery tickets for taking bus;
- Toll-free roads (or separate lanes) for car pools;
- Tax rebates for saving electricity.
B. Increase perceptions of “trust” (that others will cooperate; minimizes “sucker effect”).
E.g., - observing others who are cooperating (e.g., everyone’s using blue-boxes
But, possible problem (with too much trust):
- if most people are cooperating, we might be tempted to take a “free ride”
and not cooperate (what harm will it do?).
C. Increase communication between group members: (e.g., p. 264)
- Group can explicitly set goal of “cooperation”
- Increases commitment to achieving the cooperative goal (becomes a
- Group can impose punishments when norm is violated
- Increases trust that everyone will cooperate
- People feel they are members of the group (sense of “we-ness” or
Increases desire to protect group
But, potential problems:
- Communication must focus on cooperation (not blaming each other for
- Communication between group members becomes difficult when the
group is very large (access to the internet might help)