Friday, September 7, 2007

949 Clarification of the Survey

Message no. 949 Posted by Thomas Culhane (1311520071) on Friday, May 11, 2007 3:55pm Subject: Coming up with the survey

Hi Class,

Varshawn sent me an email asking for clarification on the surveys. Here is my answer:

Yes, you come up with your own surveys -- pick the questions from the eco and carbon footprint websites you find most useful and will use and add to them your own questions about lifestyle that can help explain why people have the footprints they have. You then plug the information into the footprint calculators to get values for your friends and then try to explain the similarities and differences by the answers you get to your other questions.

For example, I put my father's footprint information in, and I found out his lifestyle would take 3.5 planets if everybody else lived like him, and I put in my uncle's info and found that he would need 8 planets. Now I want to know what the underlying differences are that affect their different behaviors. Yes I know that my cousin drives a gas guzzler and has a huge house and eats steak everyday and my father has a hybrid car. Okay. That went into the calculator. But what explains why my cousin is such an energy hog? Is it their beliefs, their jobs, their incomes, what?

It turns out , for one thing, that my uncle lives in the Midwest where there is no public transportation, where there is a tradition of having big trucks, where beef cattle are raised, and where real estate is cheap enough for middle class people to have big houses. So even though their incomes are the same, location helps explain the differences in their consumption. Also, interestingly, though my Dad grew up in the Midwest, my Dad saw Bambi as a kid and decided he didn't want to kill animals, and he moved to New York to be a writer, while his brother became a hunter and likes that "everything big is better" macho tradition. These things describe a possible "psychology of behavior" and that is what this course is about. See what I mean?

You should speculate on these things based on the questions you ask in your survey. As Philip Ball says in Critical Mass (page 296) "Not even the most ardent supporter of individualism could reasonably claim that our choices are truly independent. How in a society flooded with mass advertising, can we hope to make decisions free from the influences of our environment."

You might ask the question "how much television do you watch a day" or "do you shop at Best Buy" and see if people who watch alot of television have a larger or smaller footprint, or if people who answer yes to shopping at Best Buy have a larger or smaller footprint.

How you EXPLAIN the data you get is where you can have fun and be creative!!!

Mark Twain said, "there are lies, damn lies, and then there are statistics!". You may find, in your tiny data set, that out of 10 people you survey, 8 have an above average footprint and they just also happen to all love Alanis Morrisette (if that was one of your questions!). Does that mean that listening to Alanis Morrisette makes you consume more? Yikes, Alanis would hate that, because she is on a "green" campaign. But your data might show that! How would you explain the psychology?

It may be that listening to Alanis has NOTHING to do with consumption, but it was a case of the roll of the dice that your data shows a correlation! Remember CORRELATIONS ARE NOT REGRESSIONS, i.e., they aren't statistically significant. For example, as our textbook says, people who ate ice cream in one study were found to be involved in violent crimes. Does that mean that ice cream causes violent crimes? No, it just turned out that the crimes were influenced by a heat wave, and the heat wave also made people eat ice cream.

The fun of environment and the psychology of behavior is trying to figure out what causes what!

You don't have to come up with the survey all by yourself by the way == you can share ideas and develop it with other class mates!

See what you come up with!

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