Social Issues and Psychology:
Psychology & The Environment
Fall, 1997


Overdevelopment of North Beach:
dollar.gif (3623 bytes)Incentives
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Amy Henn, Cory King, Jeff Lewis & Marianna Panova
Please Note: These materials may be used for research, study, and education, but please credit the authors and source. 


    People make choices mainly as a function of their immediate, personal consequences, because these are often more important to us when it comes down to action than our commitment to the environment. Any action that is rewarding is repeated until it is no longer rewarding (Gardner & Stern, 1996). Hawaii faces a difficult situation in that their economy depends on tourism and therefore building an additional tourist facility is rewarding. If development continues, environmental harm will be inevitable. Hawaii's difficulties can be explained or enlightened by many common psychological principles. The Tragedy of the Commons helps to shed light on the competition between the environment and construction. In this case, there are two reasons behind the Tragedy of the Commons. First, the rewards for using the environmental resources go to the individual who uses them. On the other hand, the costs are paid by the masses; such as the residents of Maui or the tourists. Secondly, the rewards are experienced immediately after the behavior and the costs are delayed. As soon as a hotel is built, there are guests that fill the rooms and money is being made. Profits are seen quickly and clearly. On the other hand, the costs to the environment do not appear immediately (Gardner & Stern, 1996). It may take decades 06H.jpg (5109 bytes)for a stream to be polluted, a coral reef offshore to be torn away by boats and people diving/snorkeling, aquifers to be drained, unique animal species to become extinct (some before we knew they existed), plant species to die out, and more. The consequences cannot be traced over a period of six months, one year, or three years. Rewards increase the frequency of a specific behavior [photo used by permission of SSEnterprises].

    On Maui, the incentives for new development are high in order to continue the behavior, resulting in economic streamlining. Tourism used to be very lucrative and many people made great fortunes in this industry. During the time of the tourism boom, other industries on the island were neglected and received less attention. This caused some industries to vanish and left others struggling for survival. Today, this is very problematic. Now that the tourism boom is over, Maui has nothing to rely on and other industries cannot absorb those who have lost their jobs with the hotels and resorts. In order for Maui to change the current economic trend, effective incentives for change must be developed. We have examined seven such factors that lead to effective incentives (Gardner & Stern, 1996).

Make the incentive large enough.

Match the incentives to the barriers that prevent action.

Get people to notice the incentives and the barriers they are meant to change.

Make incentives credible.

Find politically acceptable forms of incentive.

Design the incentive system to discourage evasion. Make the desired behavior coincide with narrow self-interest so that people have an interest in using the incentive.

Interact with people to understand the barriers to environmentally desirable behavior.

    To slow down the building of new resorts, we have devised three plans of change. The first is to offer low rate loans and tax breaks for the renovation of older resorts. One of the largest factors for building a new resort is that current ones are run down, do not have the newest amenities, and the services desired by today's guests. By offering money for renovation, we hope to provide the right reasons to "give the old place a face-lift". The hope is that developers will see the benefits of this plan. If a resort can be renovated, a state park or wild area will remain so, a historic tribal area may remain in tact, and the beauty of the island which draws the people will continue to do so for years to come.

    The second plan is to offer incentives for the development of ecotourism. Ecotourism, a low impact means to explore an area, has been the latest craze in vacationing. Since this type of vacationing is so new, fostering this new industry could be accomplished by offering tax breaks to new companies, offer cheap advertising and even free advertising in governmental brochures and promotions. These incentives and inexpensive means to get the word out will hopefully foster the quick accumulation of clientele.

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Psy 412 Miami University. Last revised: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 17:06:36. This document has been accessed 1 times since July 15, 1997. Comments & Questions to R. Sherman . Also See: Social Psychology at Miami University