Tom Crompton

tom

I've worked on values and social change for nearly a decade. WWF’s work in this area started in 2008, with the publication of my report Weathercocks and Signposts. This was followed in 2010 with the publication of a book I wrote with Tim Kasser called Meeting Environmental Challenges, and then with the Common Cause report, published later the same year. In the last couple of years I’ve focused on research – particularly through a very productive collaboration between WWF and Scope. This has allowed us to test many of the principles we are advancing through Common Cause. I’m now helping to set up The Common Cause Foundation. Email me at: tcrompton@commoncausefoundation.org

Do we have time to shift values?

“Do we have time to shift values?” This is a question that is often asked when people respond to Common Cause. This blog, itself an expansion of the FAQ question of the same title, offers a response.

Clearly, we don’t have long to bring down greenhouse carbon dioxide emissions very markedly before we hit devastating levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – with profound, effectively irreversible, effects upon our climate. Often, when people ask “Do we have time to shift values?”, they are posing the question in the context of the urgency of addressing climate change. In this context, we need to effect major changes in how our economies are run, and we need to effect them very soon.

In formulating a response to the challenge posed by climate change, it is important to hold in mind that these reductions in greenhouse gas emissions need to be (i) sufficiently ambitious; (ii) made sufficiently soon; (iii) sufficiently durable to be maintained for a long time to come.

Implicit in the question “Do we have time to shift values?” is the belief that some alternative strategy could perhaps provide the requisite ambition and durability, and deliver these emissions reductions in a short time-frame. Also implicit is the suspicion that, while the strategy of ‘shifting values’ may be sufficiently ambitious and dependable, it is likely to take a long time. Too long.

This blog, then, provides some responses to this important question.

Tom CromptonDo we have time to shift values?
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What about people for whom extrinsic values are particularly important?

A great deal of the research that we have brought together on this site points to the advantages, on aggregate, of appealing to intrinsic values in communicating to people about social and environmental problems – and the potential costs of appealing to extrinsic values.

But, of course, people aren’t all the same, and it may be that there are some people who are simply impervious to communications which appeal to intrinsic values. We’ve argued that this is unlikely, because we all express all these values at different times – life, afterall, is a ‘dance around the values circle’!

But the original group of people who supported the Common Cause report – from COIN, CPRE, Friends of the Earth, Oxfam and WWF – wanted to test this further. So we enlisted the help of some psychologists (at Cardiff University, and Knox College, Illinois) and linguists (at Lancaster University).

Tom CromptonWhat about people for whom extrinsic values are particularly important?
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DECC report on ‘energy behaviour’

A new paper from DECC forms the basis of their Customer Insight Team’s capacity-building on behaviour change. Drawing on Common Cause, it reviews evidence from behavioural economics, social psychology and sociology on different ways of  “changing energy behaviour”.

The report can be downloaded here.

Tom CromptonDECC report on ‘energy behaviour’
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The High Price of Materialism

Tim Kasser is professor of psychology at Knox College, Illinois, and author of The High Price of Materialism. He has been of great help in developing the Common Cause work.

In this animation, produced for The Center for a New American Dream, Tim discusses how America’s culture of consumerism undermines our well-being. When people buy into the ever-present marketing messages that “the good life” is “the goods life,” they not only use up Earth’s limited resources, but they are less happy and less inclined toward helping others. The animation both lays out the problems of excess materialism and points toward solutions that promise a healthier, more just, and more sustainable life.

 

Tom CromptonThe High Price of Materialism
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Opening the ethical debates in advertising

We’ve suggested elsewhere that there are two broad categories of response to Common Cause.

The first is to focus on the implications for the campaigns and communications that we are already producing: how might we campaign on biodiversity conservation, or disability rights, or cancer research, while simultaneously helping to strengthen those values upon which systemic concern about these issues must come to be built?

The second is to ask: what might we begin to do collectively, across the third sector, to strengthen the cultural importance of intrinsic values and reduce the pervasiveness of extrinsic values? Here there are many opportunities for new joint campaigns. One of the most obvious – but it is only one – is on advertising.

There is persuasive evidence that advertising serves to reinforce the cultural importance of extrinsic values – and to undermine the importance that we place on intrinsic values. As such, it will operate to reduce public concern about a wide range of social and environmental issues. This is an effect which is likely to be further strengthened by the fact that advertising is so pervasive – we literally can’t avoid it; and by the fact that much of it is targeted at children – people who are likely to be more vulnerable to its influence on values.

PIRC and WWF-UK have today launched a report highlighting the evidence for the cultural impacts of advertising. George Monbiot has written about it here. And you can download the report below.

We’ll now be hosting a conversation – with people from the third sector and business alike – on the cultural impacts of advertising and possible responses. Do get in touch if you would like to be involved in this!

Tom CromptonOpening the ethical debates in advertising
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Extrinsic values in campaigns: 
A response to Gallie

In his response to our earlier briefing, Nick Gallie has attempted to reconcile the Value Modes approach with the Common Cause approach, suggesting that there is room for both in motivating pro-environmental actions.

Gallie’s essay comes after a recent series of exchanges. Specifically, in our Common Cause Briefing, we responded to Chris Rose’s past claim that:

“…once the underlying dominant unmet need is met, a new one takes its place… So, if Prospectors meet that need by getting enough stuff and following sufficient fashion etc, they do not stay Prospectors but develop other needs – i.e., they become Pioneers”


And Pat Dade’s past claim that:

“[S]atisfying people’s needs, in Maslow terms, acts as a means of fulfilling a needs set and thereby saps or lessens the strength of that value set to influence behaviour”


Our briefing reported the results of a short survey conducted on several psychologists with expertise in these topics. We found that none of these psychologists believed that there was evidence supporting the ideas put forth by Dade & Rose. We then challenged Dade and Rose to produce empirical or theoretical evidence to support these claims, but none has been presented as yet.

In his reflections on this debate, Gallie raises some points with which we agree. For instance, he writes that:

“no one is disputing that status driven values based action, if rewarded, will tend to reinforce that value priority, at least for a while.”


We are pleased to see that Gallie agrees with us (and with the several psychologists whom we surveyed) on this point, as our reading of Dade & Rose’s past writings suggests that they have disputed this claim.

We find ourselves unconvinced, however, with Gallie’s main attempt to provide a justification for conciliation between the Value Modes and Common Cause viewpoints.

Much of Gallie’s attempt to provide this conciliation rests on “the consistency principle.” In particular, Gallie writes:

“Rose cites Caldini’s (sic) consistency principle to support the view that one pro environmental status driven behaviour is likely to be followed by another, as needs are satisfied and new needs take their place. Caldini (sic) cites extensive empirical evidence in support of the principle.”


And:

“Once you have begun to act in line with these values you will tend to see the world more clearly from this perspective and continue this line of action for as long as it is rewarded, somehow. Such a trajectory will tend to drive you into opposition to change models based on extrinsic value.”

Rose has proposed something similar, writing:

“[O]ur green car buying Prospector may be expected to develop opinions consistent with green cars making sense – for example buying a green car is a smart purchase [i.e. it makes me look smart] – and there is a good reason to have one [e.g. climate change exists]. And they are more likely to repeat a similar action so long as it is inside their values set.” (Parentheses in original)

Because Gallie based his argument on the popular book Influence, by Cialdini (2001), we were curious to see where this well-known psychologist discussed evidence relevant to Gallie and Rose’s argument.

The only place in that book where we found direct reference to a study that applied these principles to environmental sustainability was on pages 87-90. There, Cialdini discusses a 1980 study by Pallak, Cook & Sullivan which found that encouraging homeowners to conserve energy by offering to publish their names in newspapers as “public-spirited, fuel conserving citizens” led to decreases in energy usage that were maintained even after the homeowners were told that such publication would not be available. Certainly this can be understood as an appeal to extrinsic values that was successful, and thus supports both Value Modes and Common Cause arguments that such appeals can indeed motivate pro-environmental behaviour.

However, we would note that in explaining the results of the study, Cialdini makes it clear (on pages 88 and 90) that his interpretation of these results is a speculation that was not actually tested in the study. Further, there is nothing in Cialdini’s description of this single study suggesting that this manipulation led participants to generalize these behaviours to any new behaviours that benefited the environment.

We also have some familiarity with the kinds of consistency-based models to which Gallie (and Rose) refer in support of their viewpoint that appeals based on extrinsic values can help people “graduate” to more pro-environmental concerns.

Specifically, in a paper published in 2009 in the Journal of Consumer Policy, one of us (Crompton) collaborated with John Thogersen (perhaps the world’s leading expert on spillover in pro-environmental behaviour) to review the evidence about how specific pro-environmental behaviours might generalize to other such behaviours, and how this process might be explained by two important “consistency theories”: self-perception and cognitive dissonance.

The paper concluded:

“Spillover hypotheses derived from Bem’s (1972) self-perception theory are based on the assumption that performing a pro-environmental behaviour activates the person’s pro-environmental disposition and makes pro-environmental values and norms more salient. For this mechanism to lead to spillover, the person needs to have a pro-environmental disposition of sufficient strength. Consistent with this inference, spillover between different behaviour categories has been found to depend on the strength of the person’s pro-environmental values (Thøgersen & Ölander, 2003). Moreover, one study found that the tendency to behave consistently across pairs of pro-environmental behaviours depends on how morally important it is for the person to act in an environmentally responsible way (Thøgersen, 2004). Together, these studies suggest that positive spillover of pro-environmental behaviour is contingent on sufficiently strong pro-environmental values or norms.
This perspective is further supported by evidence on cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is more likely to motivate an individual to extend pro-environmental behaviour, rather than reduce this, in the context of a strong set of pro-environmental values and norms.” (Thøgersen and Crompton, 2009: 153).

Thus, it is far from clear that pro-environmental behaviours generalise in the way that Gallie and Rose describe. Further, the evidence suggests that to the extent that pro-environmental behaviour may generalise, this effect will be strongest for people for whom intrinsic values are more important.

Yet, as we have reviewed elsewhere, such values are likely to be eroded through appeals for pro-environmental behaviour framed through values for money, image or status.

Finally, we would note that Gallie and Rose’s arguments are not consistent with the results of a recent study by Griskevicius, Tybur, and Van Den Bergh, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2010.

These researchers directly investigated how appeals to status can activate pro-environmental behaviours, and found that, indeed, they can (a point on which both the Common Cause and the Value Modes approaches agree). Indeed, these authors made many statements throughout their article suggesting that they agree with Rose, Dade and Gallie that marketers should make appeals to purchase green products on the basis of appeals to status. At the same time, they also emphasized that their research showed that appeals to status only “increased desire for less luxurious green products when shopping in public, but not in private,” and only when the products were expensive, not cheap.

The authors seem to have understood their finding as occurring because individuals can convey status through their green purchases only if those purchases are publicly presented and expensive. Thus, these empirical results once again provide no evidence for “graduation” to intrinsic reasons for environmentalism.

On the contrary, they again suggest that such graduation does not occur, and that the only way to maintain environmentalism after appeals to status is through more appeals to status. As we have been arguing for three years now, as the psychologists who we surveyed in our briefing agreed, and as Gallie recently conceded, such appeals are likely to strengthen the very values that the research consistently shows are associated with worse environmental attitudes and behaviors.

In conclusion, we appreciate Gallie’s attempt at reconciliation and the thoughtfulness of his reply. However, we remain convinced that the body of data relevant to this question supports the claim that appeals to extrinsic values are unlikely to result in the kinds of shifts in attitudes or changes in lifestyles which Gallie, Rose, or Dade continue to claim might occur.

We have continued to present evidence supporting our viewpoint, and still await any persuasive evidence from the proponents who support Value Modes – in support either of their earlier claims (based on Maslow and Schwartz) or their more recent claims (based on “consistency theories”).

Tim Kasser and Tom Crompton

References:

Cialdini, R. B. (2001). Influence: Science & Practice. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Griskevicius, V., Tybur, J. M., & Van den Bergh, B. (2010). Going green to be seen: Status, reputation, and conspicuous conservation. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 98, 392-404.

Pallak, M. S., Cook, D. A., & Sullivan, J. J. (1980). Commitment and energy conservation. Applied Social Psychology Annual, 1, 235-253.

Thøgersen, J. and Crompton, T. (2009). Simple and painless: The limitations of spillover in environmental campaigning. Journal of Consumer Policy, 32, 141-163.

Tom CromptonExtrinsic values in campaigns: 
A response to Gallie
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Value Modes and Common Cause: 
Response to Rose

In our recent Common Cause Briefing Limitations of Environmental Campaigning Based on Money, Image and Status, we highlighted some important claims that both Pat Dade and Chris Rose have made about how values change: claims based in the Value Modes approach that were contrary to our understanding of psychological research and theory.

To help clarify our understanding, we asked several psychologists with expertise in these topics to respond to two questions designed to test the claims Dade and Rose have made about value change.

None of the psychologists who responded to our questions supported the perspective that Dade and Rose have advanced. At the end of our briefing, we therefore challenged Dade or Rose to make available the data or theoretical statements by other psychologists that would support their viewpoint.

Rose has recently responded to our briefing. Nowhere in his reply did he address the comments made by the psychologists who we surveyed, comments that explicitly rejected the implications about value change that were derived specifically from statements that he and Dade have recently made.

Conspicuously, Rose also failed to produce any data supporting the viewpoint that he and Dade advance. Nor did he offer any explanation as to why he is still not making these data public.

In addition, during his response to our briefing:

1. Rose stated that we misrepresented his views but did not explain exactly what we said that was a misrepresentation. We had been careful in our briefing to draw directly and extensively from Dade and Rose’s recent writings on this issue. For example, we cited Rose:

“…once the underlying dominant unmet need is met, a new one takes its place… So, if Prospectors meet that need by getting enough stuff and following sufficient fashion etc, they do not stay Prospectors but develop other needs – i.e., they become Pioneers”

And Dade:

“[S]atisfying people’s needs, in Maslow terms, acts as a means of fulfilling a needs set and thereby saps or lessens the strength of that value set to influence behaviour”

What they have written here seems very clear. Having quoted extensively from their writing, we summarised their position in our briefing in these terms:

“Rose and Dade claim that adopting a pro-environmental behaviour in pursuit of values for image, money, and status is likely to help meet an “unmet need” and therefore lead individuals to develop other needs, such that they will eventually come to place greater importance on the kinds of values that the research shows do indeed promote positive social and environmental behaviours and attitudes.”

We would like to hear from Rose in what way our briefing misrepresented the viewpoint that he and Dade have advanced, so long as such a response includes references to what we have each previously written.

2. Rose claimed points of difference between his approach and the Common Cause approach that are simply not points of real difference. There are many instances of this, but one example will suffice:

Rose wrote, for example that:

“trying to change people’s values or attitudes and beliefs by arguing with them or telling them they are wrong, does not work”

and:

“You need to start from where people are, not where you are.”

We have never advocated telling people that they are wrong, and in his response Rose does not offer any evidence to support his suggestion that we have. On the contrary, we have argued repeatedly and explicitly for meeting people where they are. To give one example, a section of the Common Cause Handbook entitled “Meeting people where they are” includes the following passages:

“Continuing to reinforce extrinsic values in people’s motivations is therefore likely to have unintended consequences. At the same time, though, a person’s dominant values—which will sometimes be extrinsically-oriented—may well cause them to react negatively to anything seen as directly oppositional to their dominant value-set. …
“Meeting people where they are will therefore be important in engaging them, with a view to ultimately creating spaces for change and facilitating the flourishing of more intrinsic values. This means making the most of the shared knowledge and experience we already have on how to initiate and maintain engagement with those around us; thinking about the language and media we use, and the places we work.” (p.41)

We hope that Rose will recognize that we do not disagree with him on this point.

3. Rose offered a series of reflections that have no apparent bearing on the key point of difference that we highlight in our briefing. For example, he highlighted the extensive survey evidence for the possibility of segmenting audiences according to their values. We have never disputed this evidence – and, indeed, we have drawn on the results of such surveys ourselves.

4. Rose wrote:

“Instead of trying to use theories based on these studies to criticise our work, WWF could use CDSM’s model in a realistic campaign test to see if it can persuade real outer-directed Prospectors, or security-driven Settlers, to change behaviours for inner-directed Pioneers reasons.”

As we mentioned at the end of our briefing, within the last year we sought CDSM’s help for a study that we were designing, the aim of which was to explore how best to meet extrinsically-oriented people “where they are” in discussions of issues such as climate change. Unfortunately, CDSM declined to collaborate, citing commercial sensitivities.

Conclusion

In our Common Cause Briefing Limitations of Environmental Campaigning Based on Money, Image and Status, we set out a very clear challenge to Dade and Rose to provide evidence in support of claims that they have made very clearly in past writings of theirs. Rose offered no such evidence, despite the fact that all of the psychologists who responded to our survey stated that they believed Dade and Rose’s viewpoint was mistaken, and despite our earlier reviews of the empirical evidence on the point in question. Instead of offering relevant evidence, Rose made a series of points tangential to the issue that we raised and attributed to us perspectives that we have never – and would never – seek to defend.

At this point, it seems, there is little that we can do other than to restate our hope that Rose or Dade will at some point provide evidence in support of the statements that they have made. Until they do so, we hope that organizations and individuals interested in promoting environmental sustainability and social justice outcomes will recognize that there appears to be no evidence supporting the contention of Rose and Dade that selling people green behaviours and products on the basis of appeals to status, image, and money values will help move those individuals towards a greater concern for the environment and for social justice. Instead, it appears that the weight of the empirical evidence supports our claim that such appeals run the risk of further entrenching these extrinsic values deeper in people’s minds, and thus potentially making it more difficult to meet the challenges of environmental sustainability and social justice.

Tim Kasser and Tom Crompton

Tom CromptonValue Modes and Common Cause: 
Response to Rose
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Value Modes and Common Cause: 
The dangers of appeals to money, image and status

There is much about the Common Cause approach which is in agreement with the ‘Value Modes’ approach advocated by Chris Rose and Pat Dade:  both approaches draw from a similar body of empirical work, recognize the tensions that exist in people’s value systems, and acknowledge the need to tailor different communications to different audiences.

But there is a critical difference:

Rose and Dade claim that campaigns and communications which appeal to values of money, image and status are likely to weaken these values. For example, according Rose:

“…once the underlying dominant unmet need is met, a new one takes its place… So, if Prospectors meet that need by getting enough stuff and following sufficient fashion etc, they do not stay Prospectors but develop other needs – i.e., they become Pioneers”

Tim Kasser and I have maintained that the evidence suggests this is not the case. In fact, we argue that such campaigns are likely to reinforce the importance that people give to values of money, image and status.

Rose and Dade have been adamant that they are right – prompting us to want to check our understanding with psychologists who are expert in behaviour, motivation and values.

So we recently conducted a small survey of such psychologists. We presented them with two scenarios, designed to explore the crux of the difference between the Common Cause and Value Modes approaches. All those who responded concurred with our viewpoint. None supported Rose and Dade’s perspective.

To read more, download the briefing:

Limitations of Environmental Campaigning Based on Values for Money, Image, and Status

Limitations of Environmental Campaigning Based on Values for Money, Image, and Status

Tim Kasser & Tom Crompton | August 26, 2011

The results of a small survey of psychologists on the key point of difference between the Common Cause and Value Modes approaches.

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Tom CromptonValue Modes and Common Cause: 
The dangers of appeals to money, image and status
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Values retreat, Machynlleth – March 2011

Over the 18-20 March 2011, twenty-five people met on the site of Owain Glyndwr’s revolutionary Welsh parliament of 1404, in Machynlleth, mid-Wales. Our conversations focussed on the problems that we face in meeting profound environmental, humanitarian and social challenges – unless we also begin to examine those factors that shape cultural values. This recognition is not new – the issues we debated have been central to social movements for many years. But we discussed ways in which we might begin to work collaboratively to re-focus public debate on the importance of cultural values, and to enthuse and embolden progressive actors in the public, private and third sectors through a deeper grasp of the importance of cultural values.

Tom CromptonValues retreat, Machynlleth – March 2011
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New report from Friends of the Earth US and Psychologists for Social Responsibility

On September 23 and 24, 2010, nearly two dozen activists and psychologists gathered at the offices of Friends of the Earth in Washington, D.C., to explore how to productively apply research and insights from psychology to inspire and empower real, systemic change at every level.

The report from this meeting has just been published. You can read it here.

This blog was originally posted on Identity Campaigning.

Tom CromptonNew report from Friends of the Earth US and Psychologists for Social Responsibility
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