Van Vugt, M., Griskevcius, V., & Schultz, P. W. (2014). Naturally green: Harnessing stone age psychological biases to foster environmental behavior. Social Issues and Policy Review, 8, 1-32.



It is widely agreed that humans must reduce their environmental impact. We propose

that an improved understanding of our evolved human nature can help to

improve programs and policies to address environmental problems. Combining

evolutionary and social psychological approaches, we argue that environmental

problems are often caused or exacerbated by five evolutionarily adaptive psychological

biases: Humans (1) value personal over collective outcomes (self-interest),

(2) prefer immediate over delayed rewards (shortsightedness), (3) value relative

over absolute status (status), (4) copy the behaviors of others (social imitation),

and (5) ignore problems that we cannot see or feel (sensing). By considering how

and why these five “Stone Age” biases continue to influence modern environmental

practices, although acknowledging the role of individual and cultural differences,

we present novel ways that human nature can be harnessed to develop intervention

strategies to lessen resource depletion, restrain wasteful consumption, curb

overpopulation, and foster green choices.


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