Upfront

As part of the USA Science and Engineering Festival Expo on Oct. 23 and 24, APA took to a tent on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to promote psychology as a force that can help save the environment and promote ecologically conscious living.

The expo, which is expected to become a biannual event, was held to showcase scientific ingenuity and pique young people’s interest in pursuing scientific careers.

Amid robotics demonstrations and live music, APA staff and volunteer psychology graduate students showed attendees a Power Point presentation illustrating how behavioral science can influence environmental policy and everyday life. Changing human behavior is the driving force behind any effort to protect the environment, said APA’s science website manager Kirk Waldroff, who manned the booth. "You can make use of chemistry and physics to work on cleaner technology, but ultimately it’s about changing people’s behavior to use that technology," he said.

Waldroff discussed, for example, how a psychologist-designed feedback program that gives people a daily rundown of how much electricity they use has been proven to reduce their usage.

APA’s participation in the expo also provided a venue for psychologists to demonstrate to the public that psychology is a science on par with the physical sciences, said volunteer Yi-Fang Tsai, a graduate student at George Mason University studying visual systems.

"A lot of people seem surprised by looking at psychology as a science that can help with these issues," she said. But, she added, many of the people who stopped by left convinced that behavioral science can help solve the world’s problems.

—M. Price