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Tom Crompton talk

Tom Crompton portrait

Tom Crompton portraitTom has a mysterious prop with him, something in a bag.

Let’s say you want to solve problems, but you realise that you can’t do it alone, so you work for a charity. But you still see that there is a gap with what governments are doing, and that motivations need changing. So you might enlist the help of marketeers to motivate people to lobby their MPs or donate to charity… similar to motivating people to buy a holiday.

Marketing people will say make it easy, “frictionless giving” at the click of a mouse. Assume people don’t care, therefore appeal to their self-interest – use a celebrity, make it cool, tell them how they will save money.

But the “conscience industry” is counter-productive.

The prop is Ed the Head, stuck on a pole. And Tom has an anatomically-incorrect slide of a head filled with balloons, representing groups of values. The values are common to all people. Extrinsic values are concerns about things like wealth and public recognition. When Ed came out of his bag and saw he was in an important place in front of an audience, his extrinsic values balloon increased. At the same time, his intrinsic balloon shrank – care for others, relationships, the environment, creativity.

In a study, two groups of people were invited to memorise words associated with food (control group), intrinsic and extrinsic values. Later, they were invited to volunteer their time. On average, the control group volunteered about 40 minutes, the intrinsic values group about 70 minutes, and the extrinsic about 30 minutes.

Intrinsic Ed is more likely to vote for politicians who are in favour of socially and environmentally friendly policies, to lobby for policies, to put himself out for others.

Exercising values strengthens them. But Ed sees thousands of images every day which remind him of the importance of consumption, the celebrity lifestyle, that he is a consumer rather than a citizen. And the more these extrinsic values are reinforced, the less Ed will exercise the intrinsic values.

It is important to ask how the important intrinsic values can be promoted. What messages can we campaign on? For example, for human well-being, against advertising.

Whatever help marketeers can offer, there’s an important distinction between selling care for others and selling holidays. It’s critically important what values you appeal to – to argue care for the environment on the basis of saving money actually helps to reinforce extrinsic values, and in the longer term it is likely to be counter-productive… and cut off the branch humanity is sitting on.

More Information

The Common Cause website – valuesandframes.org

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Tom Crompton biography

Tom Crompton BW

Tom CromptonTom Crompton has worked for charities for the last 12 years. Year on year, over this period, he has become increasingly frustrated by the widening gulf between the scale of social and environmental challenges that we confront, and the responses that we manage to collectively muster. Convinced that piecemeal approaches to ‘behaviour change’ aren’t delivering the responses that are needed, he now works to explore the cultural values that underpin public expressions of social and environmental concern – and the role of charities in engaging these values.

He is author of Weathercocks and Signposts: The Environment Movement at a Crossroads (2008), Meeting Environmental Challenges: The Role of Human Identity (with Tim Kasser, 2009) and Common Cause: The Case for Working with Our Cultural Values (2010). Common Cause has led to extensive debate across the third sector in many countries, and many charities are now responding to its recommendations. Tom read Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge, and holds a doctorate in evolutionary biology from the University of Leicester.