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.