“My New Year’s resolution will be to not to use plastic bags; thought Doreen as she walked home with groceries for her mom in a plastic bag she had paid 10 additional cents for at FairPrice”. This action – intention gap is, however, not unique to Doreen.
In a recent, Design Thinking class of 25 Gen Z students grappling with the design challenge: how might we motivate students in tertiary institutes to make more sustainable choices; I experienced first-hand the gap between setting an intention and not following through, with some students confessing of endorsing sustainability in public forums and surveys but lacking the motivation at a personal level to follow through on their .
The reasons for this gap can be found in behavioural bias favouring immediate gratification. For example, Doreen may know that using plastic bags to buy grocery may be detrimental for our planet in the long run; but using plastic bags is more convenient and gratifying in the moment. Also, it may be too ambitious to assume that Doreen would always have the option of taking the cloth bag with her – when her mother asks her to get some top up grocery. In these instances, Doreen could be intending to choose the “right” option, but something about her environment or the action itself could be stopping her from carrying it out.
So, the question is how can this behavioural bias be reduced? While ‘ensuring immediate gratification’ or rewarding desired behaviours can be strategies – these would typically come with a cost. Thus, a longer term more cost efficient answer may lie in ‘leveraging perceptions of fairness’. Fairness is a fundamental construct that explains why in recessionary circumstances – in a departure from classical economics - do the wages not fall to keep everyone employed. In fact, at the heart of John Rawles famous dissertation on the Veil of Ignorance is the concept of Justice.
So, if we want to truly bridge the intention action gap amongst Gen Z consumers one strategy could be to leverage the perception of fairness. A great example AV on a social experiment done in 2018 for Tata Pravesh by J. Walter Thompson Kolkata that never fails to inspire is given below.
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