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Change on the Brain

Posted: 12:24PM October 28th, 2011 | Comments

The last time I blogged I told you about my love for infographics. Well, this time I’d like to use this space to profess my love for the videos created by RSA (Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) Animate. The RSA is a non-profit from across the pond that focuses on the questions: ‘Can we go on like this? Will the ideas and values which transformed our world in the last two centuries be sufficient to find solutions to the challenges we now face or do we need new ways of thinking?’Their animated videos address such issues as education, capitalism, empathy, and motivation. The most recent addition, The Divided Brain, has to do with how our left and right hemispheres (and our understanding of said hemispheres) have altered human behavior, culture, and society.

Why, you may wonder, am I writing about the brain on a blog about sustainability. But, then again, maybe I’m not giving you enough credit. Maybe you’ve already figured out that creating a sustainable world is really about changing the choices we make and thereby changing our behavior. One of the fundamental questions about sustainability, then, is: How do we effect change? And by this I mean real change, gut level change. Change where there is no going back. Generally speaking, this is not policy-level change. This is change at the individual level, deep on the murky inside.

I have always been fascinated by behavior, whether it be human or animal. (Case in point: in high school I thought I would end up as a psychologist. In college, a wildlife ecologist.) Lately, there’s been a flurry of research around human behavior, calling attention to the fact that while we think we know why we make the choices we do, in actuality we don’t have much of a clue. Think Malcolm Gladwell or Jonah Lehrer. By increasing our understanding around human behavior/choice, however, we can more successfully influence behavior change in such a way to bring about sustainability.

In an effort to increase our own understanding around this topic, some of us here at Sustain Dane have started a book club. First one on the list- Switch, by brothers Chip and Dan Heath. I’m going to suggest others as well, like Blink (Gladwell), or How We Decide (Lehrer). I’ve heard Nudge (Thaler and Sunstein) is also good.

How about you- what have you read? Do you have any suggestions for our book list?


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