The Psychology of Action and Behavior Change

The Psychology of Action and Behavior Change


The path to a sustainable human future on Earth lies in finding a balance between conflicting goals – between striving and growth vs. stewardship and replenishment – both at the individual and collective level. Such balance requires attention to the here-and-now but also concern for others and planning for the future, two capacities that distinguish us from other species but that are not strongly developed. 

Dr. Weber’s research examines how people make decisions on actions small and large, their motives for these choices as well as the processes they may use. She will describe some tendencies in human decisions that stand in the way of socially and environmentally responsible behavior, showing how these systematic deviations from rational-economic decision-making are the result of finite cognitive and emotional capacity. She will also describe how a better appreciation of the wide range of goals and motives for action that people have and of the range of ways we make decisions (with our heads, our hearts, or by the book) can help us to frame small and large choices in ways that lead to behavior that better balances attention to the present vs. the future and to the self vs. others.

  • Dialogue 23
    8 sessions
  • October 20, 2011
    Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, India
  • ML23 Print Program |pdf|
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Elke Weber

Elke Weber, PhD, is the Jerome A. Chazen Professor of International Business and Professor of Psychology at Columbia University. She is an expert on behavioral models of judgment and decision-making under risk and uncertainty, specifically in financial and environmental contexts. At Columbia, she founded and co-directs the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions (CRED), which investigates ways of facilitating human actions consistent with sustainable development and adaptation to global change, including climate change and climate variability. She has served on several advisory committees of the National Academy of Sciences related to human dimensions in global change, was a member on an American Psychological Association Task Force that issued a report on the Interface between Psychology and Global Climate Change, and is a lead author in Working Group III for the 5th Assessment Report of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).