Cognitive barriers to prosocial behaviour
Most of us want to be good citizens and "do the right thing." Sometimes we succeed, and sometimes we fail. The world would be a better place if we succeeded more often, and thus an important research enterprise concerns identifying the reasons for failure. As a cognitive psychologist, I am interested in the possibility that the way we think, or the way our minds work, can sometimes get in the way of prosocial decisions and actions. Cognitive psychology has identified many heuristics, or rules of thumb, that we use to efficiently make judgments and decisions in our daily lives. These heuristics serve us well most of the time, and thus we trust them and use them without reservation. Unfortunately, heuristics sometimes lead to inaccurate (or biased) judgments, and we fail to recognize when this occurs. My research program seeks to identify those heuristics and biases that can get in the way of prosocial behaviour. My students and I are currently investigating three domains: economic, environmental, and health.