I'm still shaking my head at this. And in related news, oil prices surpassed $100 a barrel. The wave of unintended consequences will surely reverberate in our respective hometowns soon.
And I'm still not over yesterday's beef recall. Somehow this story was brought up in my research methods class today - one of my students proudly exclaimed why she's chosen to become a vegetarian. Many were displeased when we discussed how Westport Meat Co is (was?) a supplier for the school-lunch programs.
But I suspect that knowing this information is not going to overthrow our meat-consuming habits. I went to the General Social Survey (it's a national data program for the social sciences) and found this question: "How often do you refuse to eat meat for moral or environmental reasons?" Of the 2,883 respondents, 69.4% said never.
I also read an interesting article about heuristics (i.e., mental shortcuts for finding a solution to a problem). In this report*, the researcher cited a statistic about the percentage of organ donors in the US and France. Whereas only 28% of Americans are potential organ donors, 99.9% of the French are organ donors. How can this be? Do the French have a superior moral consciousness? Are they more knowledgeable about the importance of saving lives by donating one's organs?
No. And no.
Instead, the researcher suggested these cultural differences are a result of a default heuristic (i.e., a general rule of thumb that says if there's a default, then do nothing about it). Our default heuristic is that noone's an organ donor unless you opt into the program. The opposite is true for the French, meaning their default is that everyone's an organ donor unless you opt out.
So today I learned that acquiring knowledge is sometimes not sufficient to produce a behavioral change; when knowledge is not power, we ought to reconsider our default heuristics so that we may change those defaults for a desired outcome.
* Gigerenzer, G. (2008). Why heuristics work. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3, 20-29.