Research has demonstrated that humans tend to believe that we have more control over future events than we really do, and that the future is more predictable than it really is. This is certainly a bias stoked by modern media in relation to sustainability. From this perspective, the elimination of one particular risk offers an “illusion of control“ which many people find appealing, hence the term “pseudo-“ or false certainty.
When it comes to communicating sustainability messages with shoppers and consumers, remember, that they will tend to emphasise the positive over the negative. We really do look for the good in everyone.
Emphasise the risk
When you want shoppers to make a choice and you want them to take a risk, you emphasise the negative environmental consequences.
Emphasise the positive
When you want shoppers to take a guaranteed path that may be incomplete, you emphasise the positive.
Pause and reflect
Whenever you present shoppers with a choice you should ask yourself whether it is better phrased positively or negatively.
Basically, by phrasing a choice differently, you can guide people into making the sustainability related choice you want them to. If you find that your choice flips with the phrasing, then this bias is in play and you need to think things through more carefully.