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Julie Cook Kitchener May 13, 2021 16:34 pm
Hi everyone,

COVID-19 and climate change are two of the most significant crises facing our world today. Wide-scale behaviour change is required to address both. How can governments and other authorities ensure that people will take action to mitigate the impact of these crises? This article from The Conversation explains how governments' lack of understanding of people's cognitive biases can have unintended effects. For example, the oft-used photo of the polar bear to try to motivate people to take action on climate change is ineffective, not least because it inadvertently accentuates "spatial bias"; that is, since polar bears are in a very different geographical location than most of us, we look at the image and think that climate change will not affect us or our loved ones. 

One weakness of this article, in my opinion, is that there is an implication that if governments just get their messages right, people will behave in a way that will address these crises. As we know from the field of social marketing, most of the time it takes more than messaging to affect behaviour change. Still, understanding some of the key cognitive biases that block effective action on COVID-19 and climate change is critical for governments and practitioners alike.