Case study: Channeling action

Lightbulb cartoon.Illustration courtesy Ian Webster/CRED

Another key phenomenon: the “single action bias.” Researchers find that “individuals responding to a threat are likely to rely on one action, even when it provides only incremental protection or risk reduction and may not be the most effective option.”

CRED researchers found that Argentinian farmers who built extra storage space for grain where less likely to use irrigation or crop insurance, even though using all of the options would have provided the most protection from drought.

The guide even suggests evidence of a mass single action bias in the election of Barack Obama. Millions of voters did their One Thing to be politically engaged, then checked out, despite the fact that our political structure prevents the president from doing much on his own.

For a simple step on counteracting this effect, the guide suggests simply helping people become aware of it. Then, it says, offer them a checklist of good options.