Blog post

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 Crompton

About Tom Crompton

I'm Change Strategist at WWF-UK. For five years I headed WWF-International's Trade and Investment Programme (working on World Trade Organization issues, for example). While I was (and still am) convinced that international trade policy is crucially important in sustainability terms, I was frustrated by the glacial pace of change on this agenda - and the fact that even those trade negotiators I got to know who were personally quite 'radical' nonetheless felt impotent in a system where there was so little political space to pursue the changes that are needed. This led me to ask how organisations like WWF might begin to work to help create the political space for more ambitious change. What leads to more vocal expressions of public concern about sustainability issues? What motivates people to bring more pressure to bear on their elected leaders? These questions led to work with social psychologists and political scientists, and the publication of a series of reports: "Weathercocks and Signposts: the environment movement at a crossroads" (2008); "Simple and Painless? The limitations of spillover in environmental campaigning" (with John Thogersen, 2008), and "Meeting Environmental Challenges: The Role of Human Identity" (with Tim Kasser, 2009). These pieces of work culminated naturally in our new report, "Common Cause".
  • Maggie

    Just wondering – if the combative tone of this post is anything to go by, and those who share similar concerns in working on these issues cannot sort their differences without resorting to public slanging matches, how do you hope to reconcile differences between other groups in the wider public sphere?