New Insight Into Why Fact Based Green Policy & Marketing Fails

Mr Emotion beats Mr Reason

McCoy is in charge, not Spock.

Can science explain why educated and intelligent people don’t believe science? Yes. For green marketing and green policy the implications are profound.

Since the Enlightenment we believed that people are rational. Give people the facts and based on reason and logic they will make sensible decisions. Research reveals an inconvenient truth that turns 300 years of accepted wisdom on its head. Facts take the back seat when we make up our minds.

  • Facts are filtered through values and beliefs, about morality and how society should be ordered
  • Education plus strong beliefs can make people more resistant to ideas that contradict their beliefs
  • When these conditions exist, attempting to motivate these people with facts can produce a backlash
  • Who you will accept as a legitimate scientific authority is determined by your value-belief framework.
  • It makes you discount the validity of facts scientists present about risks and benefits
  • These are universal human traits that show up across the spectrum of morals and beliefs

When it comes to climate change, and policies related to it, people with strong faith and conservative convictions are the most likely to deny the facts. When these folks are highly educated they actively attack the science  and policies related to it.

Is there any hope for change? Yes. The science must be presented by business or religious leaders. And the science must be framed in the context of business profit-and-loss, or faith-based values.

For more on the research behind these findings check out The Science of Why We Don’t Believe in Science in Mother Jones.

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A new approach for selling green buildings and green retrofits

This doesn't look like green building. But his story will help sell them.

This doesn’t look like green building. But his story will help sell them.

Green buildings make their occupants happier and more profitable and are worth more. How come every new building isn’t green? How come every existing building isn’t getting a green retrofit?

The message isn’t getting through because of the way our brains process information. To summarize:

  • Thinking requires a lot of oxygen and calories.
  • To prevent exhaustion the brain filters out most incoming data.
  • Most is routed to the subconscious and processed there.
  • Conscious thinking is only engaged on exceptional things.

So how do we overcome our own defenses? Here’s a 3-step solution.

  1. Reframe the story.
  2. Find a respected community leader to re-tell the story
  3. Repeat, repeat, repeat

Let me give a simple example based on my own experience. I’m a skier and follow downhill ski racing. For a long time I only cared about who finished 1st, 2nd or 3rd. Then I changed my mind. Here is how it happened.

Reframe the story. I read a book by a retired racer. He explained that the difference between 1st and 15th is less than a tenth of second. That’s time it takes to blink 2 or 3 times. That’s incredibly close after racing 3.5 kilometers (2.5 miles) at 150 km/h (92 mph). Reframing showed that my focus on 1st, 2nd and 3rd made no sense.

Messages need messengers. The person who explained this was himself a world champion. At the time he was the first non-European ever to win the downhill championship. Plus he’s Canadian, as am I. All this credibility and personal identification has been proven to help new facts slip past the old guard.

Repeat, repeat, repeat. We are bombarded with more information than any creature that has ever existed in the 4 billion years that earth has circled the sun. This racer likely said these  things before and I follow racing news. But I only came across the story after he retired and wrote an autobiography.