Why not raise the alarm?

Why not raise the alarm?


The organization, Defend Our Future, has created a three-minute video to further their environmental cause. The video is a film of a re-creation of a classic social-psychological experiment. The video shows that people are quick to take action when they are alone and sense danger, but people are slow to take action when they are in the presence of others who (as confidentially instructed by the experimenter) don’t react to the danger. The danger, in this case, is smoke entering the room. People judge the danger not only on the evidence of the smoke but also on the evidence of the reaction of others to the situation.

Defend Our Future would like people to raise the alarm about climate change instead of sitting quietly because those around them are also sitting quietly.

The metaphor fits nicely, but the persuasiveness of the video is limited for two reasons.

First of all, the video is boring. Watching people not react as a room fills with smoke gets old quickly, much more quickly than the video’s three minute run time.

Secondly, the video is all about the problem, not the solution. I understand that the film has faithfully recorded the experiment. However, when posting a video on the website, why limit the video to a slow-moving documentary of the experiment? Why not use the insight from the research but show viewers that people who do raise the alarm about climate change are the sort of people that viewers would like to be. Besides explaining the reason people don’t raise the alarm, why not suggest the rewards viewers can expect from going against the grain and calling attention to the danger?

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