Blog post

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 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".