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Cognitive tips for changing mindsets: improving policies to protect health and environment
  1. Silvia Riva
  1. School of Sport Health and Applied Science, St Mary's University Twickenham, Twickenham TW1 4SX, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Silvia Riva, Department of Psychology and Pedagogic Science, Faculty of Sport, Health and Applied Science, St Mary's University Twickenham, Twickenham, London, TW1 4SX, UK; silvia.riva{at}stmarys.ac.uk

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It is difficult enough to persuade people to adopt a healthy lifestyle, such as eating well, doing physical exercise or avoiding smoking—all of which have a direct impact on their lives; however, it is an even greater challenge to persuade them to take significant actions for the future benefit of others. One such challenge is related to the protection of our environment.

Unfortunately, people consider environmental protection as a separate domain to health protection, but it is not: the environment can affect human health, and environmental hazards increase the risk of diseases with adverse consequences for the entire world.1

Various measures are proposed by national and international organisations, agencies and public institutions with the objective of regulating adequate action from citizens regarding the protection of their environment. Generally, economic actions such as taxes, subventions, fee structures and laws are, in many countries, the most frequently adopted measures.2

Recently, however, psychology (particularly cognitive psychology) and behavioural sciences have been involved in a search for solutions and suggestions for improved policies and directives.3 There is a growing awareness that in different fields of human life,4 5 personal behaviours and attitudes can bring about change. With regard to green behaviour, current literature highlights how, in many situations, environmental protection may also be influenced by people’s behaviours and individual choices. Reflecting this, psychology and behavioural sciences can provide specific insight in examining individual people’s actions and behaviours to support the resolution of environmental issues.

Their contribution is often called ‘soft’,6 because it is based on techniques and methods that aim to adapt and modify people’s attitudes and perceptions, rather than impose a radical modification through taxes, economical actions or other ‘hard’ mandatory policies (directed by legislation and regulatory monitoring). There are a number of soft techniques. In …

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