Monday, June 22, 2009

Population growth and time perspective

By Marian Starkey

Philip Zimbardo's recent TED Talk reinforced from a psychological perspective a theory those of us concerned with population growth have long believed.

People who can anticipate the long-term problems that population growth will cause (and have already caused) have a future-oriented time perspective. People who are past-oriented or present-oriented focus more intently on the short-term economic challenges that will accompany a stabilizing or decreasing population.

Zimbardo uses the example of teens pledging to abstain from premarital sex (60% of whom lose their virginity within the year) to demonstrate different people's ability to delay gratification. Those who give in to premarital sexual urges are less able to overcome their present-oriented minds in order to live out the future-oriented vision they have for themselves as virgin brides/grooms.

He shares that time perspective theory is now being applied to a variety of global issues, including promoting sustainability and conservation. Perhaps population activists like us should incorporate his theory into our advocacy work in order to reach those with other than future-oriented time perspectives.

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