Limitations of environmental campaigning based on values for money, image and status

August 2011
Common Cause Briefing

A short report based on a survey of eight internationally leading psychologists explaining why the “Values Modes” approach to environmental campaigning is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of social psychology research. At the time this survey was conducted, the “Values Modes” approach was widely discussed in campaigning networks. Proponents of “Values Modes” draw, like Common Cause, on the work of Shalom Schwartz, but they make very different recommendations for communicators and campaigners. The “Values Modes” approach recommends, for example, that campaigners should attempt to motivate pro-environmental behaviour among some groups by connecting such behaviour to aims like money, image, and status. Our survey shows that these leading psychologists’ opinions stand in direct contrast to claims made by the proponents of “Value Modes”, and instead support the Common Cause approach which advocates championing intrinsic values in order to build greater public demand for change.

Read
this if...

  • You’ve read about the Common Cause approach but are left wondering whether there are some groups of people for whom appeals framed in terms of financial success, image or social status are likely to be more effective.
  • You’ve heard of the “Values Modes” approach and are interested to know how this relates to Common Cause.

Keys Takeaways

  1. Although drawing on similar research, there are fundamental differences between the “Values Modes” and Common Cause approaches. The former concludes that social and environmental campaigners and communicators need to segment audiences in terms of their values and then message in such a way as to reflect their values back to them in order to encourage them to engage in pro-social or pro-environmental behaviours; whereas the latter advocates that it is through strengthening intrinsic values that we have the best chance of developing systemic and durable solutions to the challenges we face.
  2. The eight psychologists surveyed have expertise in the areas of values, motivation, needs and ecological sustainability, and have all published peer-reviewed empirical research and/or theoretical papers directly relevant to the debate between the Common Cause approach and that of “Values Modes”. All experts’ opinions stand in direct contrast to claims made by the proponents of “Value Modes”.

Other resources
you might like

Communicating bigger-than-self problems to extrinsically-orientated audiences

Weathercocks and signposts: the environment movement at a crossroads

No cause is an island: How People are Influenced by Values Regardless of the Cause

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