Are we all “bystanders” when it comes to responding rationally to the serious environmental crises faced by our civilization? How is our behavior shaped by that of those around us?

We’ve all heard of “the bystander effect” in which a large number of people stand by and do nothing to help someone in trouble. According to social norms theory, misperceptions of the attitudes or behaviors of our peers can cause the expression of problem behavior and the inhibition of healthy action.

In this episode, psychologist Dr. Alan Berkowitz shares the latest thinking about how the presence of other people affects our behavior, including our denial about critical threats to human civilization. Berkowitz founded and edited The Report on Social Norms. He authored RESPONSE ABILITY: A Complete Guide to Bystander Intervention in 2009. Berkowitz has been a key figure in the development of Social Norms Theory, and consults on the subjects of bystander behavior, substance abuse, sexual assault, hazing, gender, and diversity. This conversation was recorded in the Arizona desert in 2008.

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