Economics, Social Psychology, Behavioral Psychology and the Environment

Brief for Personal Statement

The main topics are social psychology as a tool do design better public policy, same with behavioral psychology and combining studies in economics, psychology, and environmental issues to become a great professional who can truly design and implement successful and impactful public policy to improve the state of the environment.

You should base the final essay on the following rough draft, which was written by the student:

“Behavioral economics is the study of the effects of psychological, social, cognitive, and emotional factors on the economic decisions of individuals. Besides helping solve many classical economic problems, such as the generation and distribution of financial wealth, the tools and methods of behavioral economics can also key to solving many of the environmental problems we have today. We live in a sad World where people don’t care about the condition of the environment and think it will stay the same way forever. However, this is not true; our planet is collapsing. And as the Planet implodes around us, we are content to continue pursuing pseudo-solutions whose effects will either vanish or prove inadequate in the long run. I think it is much more important to work on changing people’s minds and attitudes to create an inherently sustainable civilization. With the help of behavioral economics -the powerful marriage of psychology and economics- we can design an environment, a playing field that perennially, constantly nudges humans towards acts that are environmentally sustainable. Through behavioral economics, we can create an ecologically balanced society by design. A society that systematically pushes individuals and organizations towards environmentally sound practices and dissuades them from doing things that are potentially harmful to the environment.

Air pollution is responsible for more than 400 000 premature deaths in Europe each year; approximately 40% of the lakes in America are too polluted for fishing, aquatic life, or swimming; and pollution is one of the biggest global killers, affecting over 100 million people. Facts like these are the ones that make us realize, helping the environment is not something someone can decide to do or not to do, we are all forced to help the planet. If we all do not pitch in to help, the planet won’t survive, and we will perish along with it. Or rather, we will perish together with the many other biological species that we are forcing into extinction and the Planet will go on without us. These problems are only our responsibility, and they happen because most people don’t have that sense of consideration towards the environment or are not even conscious of the magnitude of the problem we have.

We know the problem is that the environment is in critical condition. The main reason for the bad state of the Earth is that people simply don’t care enough about it. The secondary reason behind the problem is our inability to design viable long-term solutions. That is to say, the problem is that societies aren’t addressing the calamitous environmental disaster properly. Why? People are focusing on solving compartmentalized ecological problems, but they aren’t trying to get at the root of those problems, which lie in our total disregard for our substrate. We need to start correcting and influencing everyone’s mentality so that they become environmentally aware and that way we would not only help reduce the impact of the environmental problems we have, but we could also prevent future ones.

I became interested in environmental problems at school when we got involved in a project to clean rivers and establish recycling programs. That was when I realized I was very interested in environmental and conservationist issues. That was when I realized that not many people paid attention. In the field of economics, I like mathematics, and I think it’s very interesting to understand the distribution and consumption of the good and how it is all about the psychology behind human behavior. I have also always been very interested in human behavior; I have learned it is not predictable and that it all depends on the way things are presented to us, that humans are emotional, irrational and that we get carried away by incentives. So it’s very difficult to predict that by putting some ad or billboard, it is going to have the same impact or that everyone will act in the same way when they see it. Issues like these that are not evaluated or taken into account before presenting an environmental project or initiative to the people cause many of them to fail. Maybe the project itself is very promising, and it probably could solve the problem that proposes to solve but perhaps the town where they put the product was not studied and wasn’t shown in a way that to that specific people would have caused some effect. If we apply behavioral economics and study every aspect that surrounds the project, then we could truly get people to act or think in the sustainable way we need to help solve these problems.”

Also, it is important to mention that the student wants to study a double or triple major or degree in Economics, Social Psychology/Behavioral Psychology and Environmental Issues. Why? To learn how to conjugate the sciences of psychology and economics to design better, more impactful pro-environment, pro-sustainability public policies and private policies. Policies for both governments and private organizations. Policies that have a better chance of succeeding because they are financially viable, because they are efficient (regarding resources spent versus positive impact achieved). Policies that are better because they appropriately take into account human behaviour to make the policies truly implementable and durable. Because by taking into account human behaviour and social dynamics, said policies can catalyze long-term culture shifts to make people’s attitudes, systems, and social structures environmentally friendly and sustainable.

It is important to note that the student was a superior student in high school, earning a 4.0 GPA, but also earning college credit because she took and passed university classes in Costa Rica: University Pre-Calculus, University Calculus, and University General Chemistry.

Note that Marielle’s father is a successful self-made businessman in the construction and real-estate development businesses and that Marielle wants to take her learning from her education to help transform her father’s building and development company into a sustainable building and sustainable urbanization company.

Marielle has great intellectual ability in all areas (most notably in maths and hard sciences) and a predilection for the hard sciences. However, she also has a great commitment to the environment social issues in general. She has developed a keen interest in the behavioral sciences, and she wishes to combine said interest (in the behavioral sciences) with her inclination for the hard sciences (research, calculations, analytical math) to do very robust, rigorous research and R&D in the social sciences. She wants to work in economics, psychology, and public policy to elevate said endeavors to the level of legitimacy and effectiveness of the natural and hard sciences, so that social problems can be truly solved using not just well-intentioned creativity but scientific rigour and precision. Especially regarding the social problems that pertain to sustainability and environmental solutions.

Also, it is important to note that Marielle has always had an interest in the human mind; at one point she even considered studying criminal science and criminal psychology because he was son interested in learning about the depths of the human mind.

It should NOT be ignored, but rather forcefully acknowledged, that Marielle is in greatly inspired by the awesome social achievements and social and political idiosyncrasy of her home country of Costa Rica. From this inspiration comes her determination to tackle the fields of psychology, economics, behavioral science and environmental issues. From this patriotic inspiration stems her yearning to become a great producer of insights and designer of strategies to create better, more innovative, modern public policies. Costa Rica, although a small, poor country, is a great social innovator, especially in the areas of sustainable development, production of clean energies, creation and protection of biological reserves and other protected areas. Costa Rica houses about 5% of the whole World’s biodiversity and strives hard to protect these species from extinction. Our country’s great statesmen (Presidents of the Republic, etc.), have done a lot to put us at the forefront of sustainable development. President Daniel Oduber created lots of protected areas, which earned him a knighthood from the Queen of England. José María Figueres Olsen made sustainable development a core element of his government. José Figueres Ferrer abolished the army, thereby creating a lasting piece and absence of civil war that we still enjoy today. Luis Alberto Monge declared Costa Rica perpetually neutral/non-aligned in armed conflicts, which has kept us out of international military conflicts. Óscar Arias Sánchez (a Nobel Peace Price laureate) ended the Central American civil war, and made worldwide disarmament his life’s mission. Many great Costa Ricans have truly strived (like our whole society) to create a peaceful, egalitarian and sustainable society. Although we have many social and environmental challenges yet to solve, we continue to be inspired by people such as Karen Christiana Figueres Olsen. Ms. Figueres Olsen is a Costa Rican lady who heads the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and who is considered the most likely leader to be able to negotiate a significant impactful international treaty whereby governments and private enterprises will commit to specific actions to curb climate change and heal the environment.

Marielle, for now, sees herself working mostly in Academia and the Private Sector after finishing her undergraduate and graduate studies. Nevertheless, she surely draws lots of inspiration from the previously mentioned heroes. She wants to follow in their footsteps and do her part to leave behind a better World. She is determined to do so because she knows she possesses the right combination of intelligence, discipline, commitment and passion for doing so. And she will not let her talents and zeal do to waste.

Costa Rica (Marielle’s country) is well on its way to becoming carbon neutral in the decade of the 2020’s. We heavily base our energy production mix on clean sources of energy and renewable sources of energy. Sustainable usage of our water supplies has become a key national priority, as has environmentally sustainable waste management.

Our constitution and jurisprudence from the Constitutional Court have upheld that the human, fundamental rights to peace, life, and health depend on ensuring the well-being of the environment, for which reason Costa Rica has exceptional protections for the environment.

However, Marielle knows that the legal status of the environment and political and popular will to defend and heal the environment are not enough. Scientific, technical, interdisciplinary, complex, thoughtful, research and ulteriorly, intelligent and viable (economically, scientifically, socially, psychologically, technologically) solutions and new structures, systems and paradigms are necessary.

Part of this challenge is designing policies based on an appropriate understanding of people’s motivations and conducts. All this to craft more viable policies from the perspective of whether people will be able to comply with them. But it also involves changing people’s hearts and minds to create a new world culture where sustainability and environmental health are automatically, second-naturedly take into account in all human actions and all individual and social endeavors.

Marielle aspires to go to a school and higher education program where she can study psychology, economics, and environmental issues. Hopefully, she will enroll in a program where she can get involved in research projects, activist groups, networks of like-minded people and, thus, be challenged to gain a deeper, more sophisticated understanding of the problems that concern her. And not only will she get a more complex, strong understanding of the problems and issues themselves, but also (maybe more importantly) of the world of possibilities to address them, fix them and create a better, more prosperous, yet more balanced world for all. All the while without recurring to authoritarian policies or systems, but rather by changing hearts and minds and approaches and philosophies.


You should write the essay in the first person (Marielle being the narrator).

You should include lots of research and external references, especially regarding how interdisciplinary approaches such as environmental psychology and design for social innovation, amongst others, if approached with scientific rigor, truly are our best chance of solving complex social problems.


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