This Week in Research: God is Green; When Good Marketing Backfires

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A University of Maryland study undermines easy ideas about how religion and politics overlap.  The study, which surveyed nearly 1,500 Americans, many who self-identified as Catholic or Evangelical, found that those who believe in God also favor international efforts aimed at curbing climate change.  Seventy-five percent of believers considered it a moral obligation to act as good stewards for the environment. Two-thirds thought that meant supporting pro-environment laws and regulations.  The same goes for nuclear proliferation.  John Steinbruner, Maryland public policy professor and co-author of the study, notes that the findings “challenge common political stereotypes that pigeonhole religious Americans as liberal or conservative” on these issues.  However, fewer than half of the believers surveyed thought that there was a scientific consensus that climate change was an urgent problem. They were more likely to think that not enough was known to take action.

Advertising can play funny tricks on the brain.  It’s not surprising that boldly packaged products are more likely to fly off the shelves, as a recent Johns Hopkins study found.  But less expected is the fact that consumers actually use these products more slowly — presumably because the packaging has tricked them into thinking that they work more effectively.  In this way, strong marketing cues can have unintended self-defeating side effects.  The so-called “ironic effects” of packaging and marketing might make the products that move off the shelves quickly end up lingering longer on household shelves.  “People tend to be lazy,” said lead researcher Meng Zhu. “When we’re shopping, we don’t generally study the ingredients on the package. We look for the salient cues, such as brand names and strong images. Those things are easy to process, and whether they’re presented in a bold fashion or not makes a huge difference in how we judge products.”