Reynolds, D Poeppel, WJ Nichols. 2013. Your Brain On Nature: Communicating to change behavior: The need to understand neural processing and the effects of nature. 5th International Partners in Flight Conference and Conservation Workshop. August 25 – 28, 2013, Snowbird, Utah.
Traditional Communication Methods
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the broader conservation community prides itself on the foundation of sound science used to achieve the best conservation for the species and habitats we are entrusted to protect, restore and enhance.
To inform our diverse audiences and raise awareness that will illicit change, our communications tend to:
• provide information;
• use traditional tools (e.g., websites, newsletters);
• play on guilt; and
• scare people with dire messages.
Quite simply, we are sending the wrong message.
Science Needs Proposal: Your Brain on Nature
The Wave of the Future: Neuromarketing
Neuromarketing is a new form of market research, that uses neuroscience tools to measure the emotional impact of communication across all media, and translate the findings into actionable marketing recommendations.
For-profit companies have long used neuroscience to help develop their marketing strategies and campaigns. Companies like Coca Cola, Volkswagon, Frito Lay, all use neural studies to help them develop marketing campaigns that measure customer response to color, sounds, fonts, and emotions. Neural studies in the marketing world use technology to look inside our heads and show what consumers really feel, as opposed to what marketers think we feel.
Applying what we learn from this study to conservation messages offers great hope for motivating people to care about and act upon environmental issues.
Ninety-five percent of our decisions are made in the portion of our brains that control subconscious thought. While traditional marketing measures our external opinions, neuromarketing measures emotions as they happen.
Communicating for Conservation Change: Neuroconservation
To provide a stronger foundation for the communication and outreach we do and to enhance our capabilities of “selling” conservation, we propose to study how our brains respond to birds and coastal environments, landscapes, etc... in order to construct conservation campaigns that provide information that leads to conservation action.
Neural studies in the marketing world use technology to look inside our heads and show what consumers really feel, as opposed to what marketers think we feel. Applying what we learn from this study to conservation messages offers great hope for motivating people to care about and act upon environmental issues.
Pictures are more powerful than words, but environmentalists who show the horrific scope of a problem with a devastating photo often end up alienating the very people they wish to inspire. This is refered to as a “compassion collapse,” in which people wind up feeling powerless and then disengage from the issue.
Instead of focusing the spotlight on results of scientific studies that prove our planet is rapidly warming, or on statistics about alarming species extinction rates, we should be talking about how an ocean view will make us feel happy or standing among trees will arouse our feelings of peacefulness. This idea is called neuroconservation.
Using the tenets of neuroscience may boost the effort to gain support for conservation causes in a world that’s overrun with more scientific data than we know what to do with.
Debra Reynolds, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Dr. David Poeppel, Professor of Psychology and Neural Science, New York University, Dr. Wallace J Nichols, Research Associate at California Academy of Sciences and co-founder of OceanRevolution.org
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