Recently, Weber has dedicated much of her research to examining the psychological impulses behind our decisions to invest — or not — in sustainability efforts, individually and collectively. “A lot of the communication about climate change is gloom and doom, trying to scare or guilt people into doing something. And nobody wants to feel scared or guilty for long. But most of us don’t really want to destroy the planet,” Weber explains. Her research, she says, is “designed to help people achieve what, deep down, if they thought about it more carefully, they would want to do.
Weber’s Studies: A Sampling
For more people to buy hybrid or electric cars, for example, Weber says we must stress the advantages of those vehicles first and not compare them with gasoline-powered cars, which have long been the default “option A.”
In 2014, Weber and her team asked study participants to write brief essays on different topics before deciding whether — and how much — to donate to an environmental nonprofit. The questions ranged from probing shopping habits to asking how they would like to be remembered. Those who wrote about their legacies routinely gave more money to that nonprofit. “[These motivations] help people overcome their usual focus on the here-and-now,” Weber says.