Behavioral economics can identify the real
(and psychological) barriers people face in
conservation efforts and suggest efficient
ways to overcome them. People have
limited attention resources and limited
capacities for information processing.
Behavioral economics can help find a way
to capture an individual’s attention, change
his or her perspective, and provide the
most effective type of information.
Department of Institutional, Environmental, and
Experimental Economics, University of Economics of
Prague, Prague 3, 13067, Czech Republic.
Norm-based persuasion messages appear
Alik S. Widge
to be very effective in encouraging energy-
saving and environmental protection
behavior. For example, many hotel chains
walking to work, or reducing energy use)
but find it hard to start the habit. Perhaps
noninvasive technologies could help them
start those healthy habits by enhancing
motivation or early learning.
Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School,
Charlestown, MA 02129, USA.
Preserving Earth’s ecosystems requires
giving up immediate rewards (such as
cheap, unregulated fossil fuels) in favor of
larger benefits that are both delayed and
intangible (such as clean air and protected
biodiversity). Decision neuroscientists have
found that people who are better at visualizing their future selves are more willing to
delay gratification. In other words, we are
more willing to make sacrifices to protect
our future if we can vividly imagine ourselves in that future. Ever-improving virtual
The potential toxicity of cyanobacteria
blooms can pose health risks to humans and
negatively affect ecosystem services such
as drinking and recreational use of water,
fishing, and irrigation. Limiting excess nutrient concentration in water can help control
cyanobacteria blooms. To do this, scientists
need the support of politicians and decision-makers who can invest in water treatment
facilities and sewage systems and regulate
the amount of fertilizers in agriculture
and the types of crops planted near water
bodies. Scientists also must foster awareness in the general public about the causes,
consequences, and possible solutions for
cyanobacteria blooms. Engaged citizens can
promote the changes needed through adjustments in their lifestyle and informed votes.
Paula de Tezanos Pinto
Laboratorio de Limnología. Departamento de Ecología,
Genética, y Evolución, Universidad de Buenos Aires,
While studying the teaching and learning of science content, science education
researchers have an opportunity to study
the perceptions of, and interactions with,
science. It is these interactions that shape
the future, through personal choices,
public policy, and funding for scientific
research. Although content knowledge
traditionally defines learning, the future of
science education may emphasize multi-disciplinary, socio-scientific concepts such
as environmental protection, conservation,
climate change, and energy technologies.
CREATE for STEM Institute, Michigan State
University, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA.
Scientific data is no longer just distorted
through cherry-picking and misrepresentation. It is being dismissed entirely. To
counter this, conservationists need society to become more receptive to science.
Advances in political psychology suggest
that scientific curiosity, rather than scientific
literacy, makes people more open-minded to
politically sensitive topics. Therefore, conservation scientists should not just produce
more-detailed research to counter the post-truth tsunami. We should instead appeal to
the public’s curiosity by describing the way
science explores and protects the undiscovered parts of nature. In short, conservation
needs less advocacy and more Attenborough.
Centre for Environmental Management, University
of the Free State, Bloemfontein, 9300, South Africa.
Fishermen work on China’s Chaohu Lake, which is filled with cyanobacteria.
reality technology could make it possible for
anyone, regardless of imagination skills, to
immerse themselves in the future dystopias
that our present actions engender, and that
could prompt behavior change today that
would ensure a better tomorrow.
Department of Psychology and Neuroscience,
Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA.
When people learn about what they are
doing through feedback, they are aware
of the need for changes in behaviors. In
the big data era, copious data about daily
behavior can be collected, integrated, and
analyzed to discover behavior patterns.
Then the information can be provided in
near real-time as interventions. The power
of peer effect and feedback is enormous in
promoting conservation behavior.
School of Management, Hefei University of Technology,
Hefei, Anhui, 230009, China.
have adopted conservation programs in
which they post a sign asking guests to reuse
their towels during their stay. Natural field
studies have revealed that norm-based signs
(such as those saying “the majority of guests
join our conservation program and reuse
their towels”) are more effective than signs
focused solely on environmental protection. Others’ disapproval is also effective in
decreasing littering and electricity usage and
increasing recycling. Normative appeals can
encourage conservation behavior, at no extra
cost to organizations (such as hotels).
Shanghai Jiaotong University, Shanghai, 200030,
China. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Neural engineering focuses on changing the brain to ameliorate disease. One
branch of our field, transcranial stimulation, has started to focus on brain change
in healthy individuals, helping to modulate
mood or cognitive biases. A major problem in conservation is that people want to
take beneficial actions (such as recycling,
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