At The Fuller Symposium, Behavioral Science Takes Center Stage
On Dec. 4, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the National Geographic Society hosted the annual WWF Fuller Symposium, a day-long event highlighting key challenges and opportunities in conservation science. This year’s symposium focused specifically on the emerging use of behavioral science in conservation. Throughout the day, speakers shared insights on how behavioral science could be used to connect broad audiences to important issues in species and habitat conservation as well as to increase the adoption of conservation practices around the globe.
Speakers in the morning session, including Sarilani Wirawan, implementation director for the Indonesia Program at the global conservation organization Rare, highlighted the importance of incorporating behavioral insights into community outreach in order to increase the implementation of conservation practices. Wirawan underscored this point by walking the audience through Rare’s efforts to sustainably manage fisheries in Indonesia by working with local communities to develop plans to transition from open-access fisheries to a managed-access system. Her takeaway from this effort was that:
In order to get people to change, we need to design innovative solutions that meet them where they are using the power of emotional appeals, social incentives, and choice architecture as expertly as we can.
In the afternoon session, speakers offered examples of research and real-world experiences that have underscored the importance of studying ways to connect with diverse audiences on the topic of conservation. In particular, the final session of the day focused on the ways that wildlife imagery can create empathy and increase interest in conservation efforts. To highlight the impact of images and storytelling, National Geographic Explorer and photographer Ronan Donovan told the story of a chimpanzee named Max who lost both of his feet to snares set by local bushmeat hunters in Africa. After sharing Max’s story, nearly every person in the audience said they would donate to efforts to remove similar snares if they had a button next to them to do so.
You have more of a connection to and information about an individual, you’re more likely to invest in them, either emotionally or, in this case, monetarily.
The day was full of these and many more fascinating insights. From applications of behavioral research to the impact of virtual reality systems and radionovelas, this field of study is increasingly becoming a major focus of the conservation movement.
Want to learn more? You can watch full presentations and panel discussions from the event here.