In search of the green fakers (in search of myself) - Notes on dissociation - Why Aren't We Saving the Planet?: A Psychologist's Perspective - Geoffrey Beattie

Why Aren't We Saving the Planet?: A Psychologist's Perspective - Geoffrey Beattie (2010)

Part III. Notes on dissociation

Chapter 12. In search of the green fakers (in search of myself)

Thus, from a contemporary psychological perspective, talk is seen as a complex multichannel activity which involves the expression of thoughts and ideas through both language and expressive movement, and particularly through the expressive movements of the hands and arms (see McNeill 1992, 2000; Beattie 2003). These expressive movements are imagistic and iconic in form and closely temporally integrated with the speech itself. Ideas are jointly expressed through the speech and the movement (Beattie and Shovelton 1999a, 1999b, 2001, 2005) and this has led David McNeill to the startling conclusion that ‘To exclude the gesture side, as has been traditional, is tantamount to ignoring half of the message out of the brain’ (2000:139).

It is important to point out that there are different conceptual models of how this whole process of gestures and speech cooperating to communicate meaning actually works. McNeill (2005) proposed a psychological model based on the rather complex concept of the ‘growth point’ - the minimal unit of an imagery-language dialectic.

A growth point is a package that has both linguistic categorical and imagistic components, and it has these components irreducibly. It is a minimal unit in the Vygotskian [Vygotsky 1986] sense, the smallest package that retains the property of being a whole; in this case the imagery-language whole that we see in synchronized combinations of co-expressive speech and gestures. (McNeill 2005:105)

In McNeill’s model, the construction of meaning and talk is ‘a dynamic, continuously updated process in which new fields of oppositions [his terminology for a particular understanding of context] are formed and new GPs [growth points] or psychological predicates are differentiated in ongoing cycles of thinking and speaking’ (McNeill 2005:107). McNeill shows how this model can explain the form and timing of the gestural movements that accompany speech. In an example where a participant retells a cartoon story, the concept of the growth point is illustrated when someone says verbally ‘drops it [a bowling ball] down the drainpipe’. The accompanying gesture has a distinctive shape and is not the gesture shown in the original cartoon. McNeill’s conclusion is that ‘The gesture and sentence … reflected the speaker’s conceptualizing of the cartoon as much as the objective cartoon content’ (McNeill 2005:121). McNeill’s (2005) model in which he makes speech and gesture absolutely integral to the process of meaning generation gives us a new way of analysing talk to glimpse the conceptualisation process of utterances in real time.

Others have recognised that gesture is an integral aspect of everyday communication but have not necessarily subscribed to the growth point theory. One other influential model is the Information Packaging Hypothesis (IPH) of Kita (2000), discussed extensively by McNeill. The IPH considers speech and gesture to be independent cognitive streams in speech, running simultaneously. The IPH is more of a modular conception of speech and gesture with the two modules as ‘separate’ intertwining streams (in McNeill’s words). McNeill says that the imagery in the gesture is categorised linguistically, whereas in the IPH gesture is viewed as visual thinking. The IPH requires an interface for the imagery and gesture modules for the exchange of relevant information. McNeill’s growth point model does not have such an interface because here gesture and language combine dialectically (see McNeill 2005:132).

Thus, there are a number of significantly different theoretical interpretations of the exact relationship between gesture and speech, but they all agree on a number of theoretical points, mainly that gesture is an essential component of speaking and that communication between conversational partners depends critically on this component (see also Beattie and Shovelton 1999a, 1999b, 2001, 2005). The other thing they agree on is that our very conception of the nature of human communication has changed in the past few years.

There is one feature of gestural communication in particular that might be extremely relevant to our current considerations, and that is how unconscious this process of generating gestures actually is. Speakers, as I have suggested, may have good conscious awareness of how their speech is unfolding in real time but they seem to be much less aware of the exact form and timing of their gestural movements. This has been emphasised by a number of leading researchers in this area. Thus Cienki and Müller (2008) wrote that ‘Gestures are less monitored than speech and they are to a great extent unconscious. Speakers are often unaware that they are gesturing at all’ (2008:94). Danesi (1999) argued that ‘when people speak they gesture unconsciously, literally “drawing” the concepts they are conveying orally’ (1999:35). Nelson (2007) stated that:

gesture is a parallel component of human verbal communication, sometimes used unconsciously to accompany the message conveyed by words (Goldin-Meadow 1997) … [gestures] are often acquired and used without conscious intent. To the extent this is the case, it verifies the continuing existence of a mode of unconscious meaning unconsciously expressed. (1997:96)

The possibility of using this mode of unconscious meaning unconsciously expressed to gain insights into the implicit aspects of underlying attitudes is an intriguing one. Could we analyse the gestures and speech in detail, specifically focusing on individual gestures and speech that do not match in terms of meaning for a possible insight into implicit-explicit discrepancies? Could we find evidence of dissociation between implicit and explicit attitudes through a micro-analysis of the everyday behaviour of people simply talking about their views? Further, if the gestures are a

Figure 12.1 Professor Geoff Beattie giving a talk in London. Even though he has studied gesture for many years, he was still unaware of what this particular gesture meant (it is much more than a pointing gesture, by the way).

mode of unconscious meaning unconsciously expressed, can we ‘read’ the implicit attitudes of the speaker in this mode of representation, even when the conscious verbal channel says something quite different?

Of course, a parallel sort of enquiry was started over a century earlier by Freud (1901/1975) in his analysis of slips of the tongue. Since the first descriptions of such slips (Meringer and Mayer 1895) there has been a widespread difference of opinion on what kinds of mechanisms are required to explain them. Wundt (1900) attempted to explain them through the ‘contact effect of sounds’ or what subsequent generations of linguists and psychologists might call psycholinguistic mechanisms - the processes and rules that generate speech production (see Ellis and Beattie 1986). But Freud was adamant that:

Among slips of the tongue that I have collected myself, I can find hardly one in which I should be obliged to trace the disturbance of speech simply and solely to what Wundt (1900:392) calls ‘the contact effect of sounds’. I almost invariably discover a disturbing influence in addition which comes from something outside the intended utterance; and the disturbing element is either a single thought that has remained unconscious, which manifests itself in the slip of the tongue and which can often be brought to consciousness only by means of searching analysis, or it is a more general physical motive force which is directed against the entire utterance. (1901/1975:103)

His carefully chosen examples seem to support his thesis. There may be a phonetic similarity between the origin and target of the slip, but there may well be some additional evidence of the unconscious breaking through into the conscious medium of speech.

Thus, according to Freud:

A slip of the tongue had a similar mechanism in the case of another woman patient, whose memory failed her in the middle of reproducing a long-lost recollection of childhood. Her memory would not tell her what part of her body had been grasped by a prying and lascivious hand. Immediately afterwards she called on a friend with whom she discussed summer residences. When she was asked where her cottage at M. was situated she answered: ‘on the Berglende [hill-thigh]’ instead of Berglehne [hill-side].

When I asked another woman patient at the end of the session how her uncle was, she answered: ‘I don’t know, nowadays I only see him in flagranti.’ Next day she began: ‘I am really ashamed of myself for having given you such a stupid answer. You must of course have thought me a very uneducated person who is always getting foreign words mixed up. I meant to say: en passant.’ We did not as yet know the source of the foreign phrase which she had wrongly applied. In the same session, however, while continuing the previous day’s topic, she brought up a reminiscence in which the chief role was played by being caught in flagranti. The slip of the tongue of the day before had therefore anticipated the memory which at the time had not yet become conscious. (1901/1975:105-106)

But imagine if Freud had had video recordings to work with and the new model of how thoughts are expressed through both speech and movement. What might a similar analysis of gesture, capable of generating its meaning well below the radar of consciousness, have revealed? That is the question we tackle here. Furthermore, we can be more targeted in our quest. With Freud, all we have is the observed behaviour; the rest is inference. Here we will have the behaviour - direct concrete evidence of gestures and speech that match or fail to match - but, in addition, we will have our independent measures of what their implicit and explicit attitudes actually are. This should help us focus our search and our interpretation in a much more systematic way.

From the IAT and the explicit attitude measures, we were able to identify two distinct sets of participants - one set had very positive attitudes to low carbon products on both the explicit and implicit measures (n = 10); the other had the greatest explicit and implicit attitudinal clash (n = 10). This sample of just twenty people was then contacted and asked to take part in an interview. Each person was filmed as they responded to a series of general questions regarding environmental issues and their own particular lifestyles. This included questions about what environmental behaviour they engaged in, what they knew about carbon labelling, whether they thought that carbon labelling could make a difference to global warming and whether they felt they themselves could make any difference to climate change. The aim of the interview was to get the interviewee to talk openly about environmental topics in an informal situation where they were hopefully relaxed enough to feel comfortable (and gesture freely). Afterwards the iconic and metaphoric gestures were identified and the accompanying speech was transcribed in detail.

The transcripts of gestures and speech use the following symbols.

[ ]

Square brackets indicate the beginning and end of the gesture.


Square brackets in bold highlight the gestural movement that is of particular significance.


Colons are used to represent pauses in speech, where the number of colons indicates the length of the pause, e.g. :::: would indicate a very long pause.


A subscript number in parentheses indicates the sequence in which the gestures occurred

Figures 12.2 to 12.4 show the average number of gestures produced by the participants whose explicit and implicit attitudes either converge or diverge, the average time each

Figure 12.2 How gesture frequency is affected by convergent/divergent attitudes.

Figure 12.3 How time spent talking is affected by convergent/divergent attitudes.

Figure 12.4 How gesture rate is affected by convergent/divergent attitudes.

Table 12.1 Comparisons of the average number of gestures produced, average time spent talking and average number of gestures per minute for the convergent and divergent groups

Average no. of gestures

Average time spent talking (minutes)

Average number of gestures per minute









group spent talking and the average number of gestures produced per minute. Table 12.1 compares the data in these figures.

It would seem that those people whose attitudes converge, on average, gesture more than those whose attitudes diverge; they talk for longer about green issues and produce a greater number of gestures per minute compared to the divergent group (although there does seem to be considerable individual variation in this overall pattern). In other words, when people have unconscious implicit attitudes that do not match their consciously expressed attitudes, generally speaking they talk less and gesture less (in other words, there is a degree of inhibition in their behaviour). Of course, following Freud, evidence of this attitudinal dissonance within individuals may well be more visible in the detail of actual examples of gesture and speech and it is to these we turn.

Bryony is an example of a young consumer who displays a high degree of convergence between implicit and explicit attitudes. In this example, she is discussing her own and her family’s attitude to recycling. One of the accompanying gestures (gesture 2) in this example is interesting for two reasons: first of all, the gesture adds to the information conveyed in speech by providing additional information about the position of these recycling bins relative to the house (see also Beattie and Shovelton, 1999a, 1999b, who demonstrated that relative position of objects is particularly well encoded by iconic gesture); the gesture seems to indicate that the bins are located to the left of the house (which they were, as it turned out, as we subsequently visited the house). The position of the bins relative to the house is not mentioned in the speech itself, so this is an example of a complementary gesture. This iconic gesture (gesture 2) thus shows her visual thinking about the physical layout of her environment and how that impacts on the process of recycling at her home. The gesture, unconsciously generated, acts as a ‘window on the mind’ (McNeill 1992), accurately displaying information that is not verbalised in the speech. Gesture 2, as well as displaying relative position, displays the distance of the recycling bins from the house. While Bryony says that the recycling bins are ‘just outside’, the gesture is a little discrepant to this. It is a gesture that has a relatively long trajectory, suggesting that the bins may be physically further away than she is indicating verbally (again it turns out that in reality they are some distance from the front door, and not ‘just outside’). Bryony is someone who says that she is very ‘green’ in her attitudes; the IAT reveals that her implicit attitudes are also very ‘green’. She does recycle, and places things in the recycling bins, and downplays their distance from the front door in her speech, but the distance is not a serious obstacle to this process. Her gesture tells us this.


Erm yeah : er : yeah we-we recycle most things in our house like glass :: plastic : paper and [we’ve got like recycling bins](1) [just outside](2) so ::: it’s quite easy

[we’ve got like recycling bins](1)

Gesture 1: Both arms move from the centre of the body outwards to about a foot apart

[just outside](2)

Gesture 2: Left arm moves forward and points to an area to the right of the body


Here is another young consumer with convergent explicit and implicit attitudes. In this first gestural sequence she is wrestling with Walker and King’s (2008) dilemma about personal responsibility and the importance of individual action to do something about climate change. She says that she should get more actively involved (and of course her explicit and implicit attitudes converging would prime her to actually do something in this regard), rather than leaving it all to others, ‘to fight my corner’. She locates these ‘others’ in her gestural space using a deictic or pointing gesture (gesture 4). Note the late timing of gesture 5. The deictic gesture accompanying ‘corner’ seems slow in its execution; perhaps it should be coordinated with ‘my’. Gestures 6 and 7 indicate that she is aware that she needs to do more in terms of actual behaviour, to ‘be the one that gets involved’. Her deictic gesture (gesture 7) completes the utterance. It points back to the same position in the gestural space as gesture 4, and means ‘like the others who are currently fighting my corner’.

No that’s [true because you think :: that-tha-sh-that’s so lazy of me](3) to think that [some other people are gonna fight my](4) [corner](5) ::: [you-you should also be the one that](6) [gets : you know : that gets involved](7)

[true because you think :: that-tha-sh-that’s so lazy of me](3)

Gesture 3: Hands are a foot apart, palms facing down. Hands repeatedly push down in a vertical direction

[some other people are gonna fight my](4)

Gesture 4: Index finger of left hand points away from self - signifying ‘other people’


Gesture 5: Index finger of left hand points towards the body - signifying self

[you-you should also be the one that](6)

Gesture 6: Index finger of left hand points away from self again - signifying ‘other people’

[gets : you know : that gets involved](7)

Gesture 7: Index finger of left hand repeats the gesture of pointing towards the ‘other people’

In this second sequence from Clara, she is trying to find a suitable metaphor to show that change is possible starting with small beginnings. The metaphor she seizes on is that of battery farming and the way that word spread about the unacceptability of this type of farming. Of particular note here is the extent and size of the accompanying gestures. When talking about ‘millions of chains of people’ the gesture represents these layers and layers of people who are involved. Similarly, gesture 13, used to represent how knowledge and action against battery hens became a ‘widespread thing’, spreads right out across the gestural space from the centre of the body, extending the left arm as far as it will go, indicating just how widespread and encompassing this issue became. The nature and the scope of her gestures reinforce the content of what she is saying, but add a new dimension through their all-encompassing nature. She believes passionately that such change is possible, and such change is in complete accordance with her explicit as well as her implicit attitude.

Yeah [but then like you said like th:e :: battery he-battery](8) [hen stuff and the eggs and stuff](9) [well who started that](10) :::: [that was just word of mouth and like](11) : [millions of ::: chains of people](12) and then it just became like : [a w:i:despread](13) thing didn’t it

[but then like you said like th:e :: battery he-battery](8)

Gesture 8: Hands spread out, moving away from the body with palms facing upwards, fingers are spread

[hen stuff and the eggs and stuff](9)

Gesture 9: Index finger of right hand points downwards

[well who started that](10)

Gesture 10: Hands spread out, moving away from the body with palms facing upwards, fingers are spread

[that was just word of mouth and like](11)

Gesture 11: Index finger of left hand moves across the body towards the left making circular movement

[millions of ::: chains of people](12)

Gesture 12: Hands are raised, making circular movements at descending levels

[a w:i:despread](13)

Gesture 13: Left arm moves to the left, away from the body in a sweeping motion


In the gestural sequence below, Gemma is talking about how carbon labelling can guide consumers to the right choice. When talking about the size of carbon footprint labels, she says ‘it’s just a little thing so that people can see it’, but notice the span of the gesture (gesture 15) accompanying ‘little thing’. The gesture does not seem to mirror the physical dimensions of the carbon labels available on commercial products. To slightly modify McNeill’s description of a growth point example to make the point, ‘The gesture and sentence … reflected the speaker’s conceptualizing of the carbon label as much as the objective carbon label content’ (McNeill 2005:121). Thus, this speaker through her gestural exaggeration in gesture 15 appears to indicate that the carbon labels should be much more perceptually salient and significant to other people as they are to her with both her explicit and implicit attitudes positive and convergent.

[If it’s like what : y’know like in the corner](14) [like just a little thi:n:g](15) :: [probably so that people](16) can ::: [see it](17) : [if they’re gonna](18) :: but :: not : so it’s : that’s : all you notice

[If it’s like what : y’know like in the corner](14)

Gesture 14: Makes a circular shape using both hands

[like just a little thi:n:g](15)

Gesture 15: Index finger on right hand outlines a circular shape in the air at head height

[probably so that people](16)

Gesture 16: Right hand is extended out in front of the body, fingers are spread out, palm facing upwards

[see it](17)

Gesture 17: Right hand is raised towards the body

[if they’re gonna](18) Gesture 18: Right hand extends

out in front of the body again, fingers are spread out, palm facing upwards

In this second sequence Gemma is talking about the choice dilemma in supermarkets and how if one product had a high carbon footprint and one had a low carbon footprint then she would buy the low-carbon-footprint product even if the low-carbon-footprint product was more expensive (the reason she gives is that she would feel really guilty doing anything else). We know with Gemma that not only is her explicit attitude to low-carbon-footprint products positive but her implicit attitude is as well. Notice how she uses deictic gestures to refer to high- and low-carbon-footprint products in a consistent way by assigning them to a location in gestural space in gestures 19 and 20 (in this case either to her right or left) and then referring back to these concepts within the same location in gestural space in a consistent manner. So when she says that she would ‘buy the low’, her gesture (gesture 26) moves (and points) to the same location in the gestural space identified in gesture 20. In other words, in both her speech and her gesture she is being perfectly consistent. The unconscious gesture supports rather than contradicts what is being said in the speech of this participant, whose explicit and implicit attitudes match.

Yeah [if it was like really high](19) [and something was really low](20) :: [but it was the same product](21) [er but there was a difference in price](22) ::: [then I](23) ::::: [probably still feel really guilty](24) [about buying the high carbon one](25) [so I would buy the low](26)

[if it was like really high](19)

Gesture 19: Right hand moves out to the right of the body, fingers are spread, palms are facing upwards

[and something was really low](20)

Gesture 20: Right hand remains extended and the left hand moves out to the left-hand side of the body, fingers are extended, palms are facing upwards

[but it was the same product](21)

Gesture 21: Both hands move back into the centre of the body, index fingers on both hands are extended, pointing inwards to an area in the centre of the gestural space

[er but there was a difference in price](22)

Gesture 22: Index fingers on both hands then point out, away from the body

[then I](23)

Gesture 23: Index finger on the left hand points back towards the body

[probably still feel really guilty](24)

Gesture 24: Left hand then extends out, palms are facing upwards, fingers are spread

[about buying the high carbon one](25)

Gesture 25: Right hand gestures to the right of the body, palms are facing upwards, fingers are spread. Left hand also moves towards the right with palms facing down

[so I would buy the low](26)

Gesture 26: Both hands flip so that they have moved towards the left-hand side of the body

Now we can attempt to read the minds of participants whose explicit and implicit attitudes diverge, and perhaps are even dissociated. In the two individuals below the explicit attitudes towards low-carbon-footprint products are positive but their implicit attitudes are much less positive.


Andrew has an explicit attitude towards carbon footprint that is positive but an implicit attitude that is less positive, so we can examine how this attitudinal discrepancy between the unconscious and conscious is reflected in his behaviour. One critical point of the interview is when he discusses the moment of choice between high- and low-carbon-footprint products: the example he uses is that of tomatoes. His speech, interestingly, is full of speech disturbances (things like self-interrupted utterances or false starts, e.g. ‘and these car- or ten’, parenthetic remarks, e.g. ‘you know’, repetition, e.g. ‘the, the lower carbon footprint’), but it is his gestural movements that are particularly revealing here. He locates the high-carbon-footprint tomatoes using his left hand in the left-hand side of his gestural space, the hand has a particular configuration, the back of his hand is outwards away from the centre of the body, the movement is a chopping movement (see gesture 27). He then starts to refer to the low-carbon-footprint tomatoes and his left hand starts to move to the right and point to the right with a different hand configuration (see gesture 28), but he self-interrupts this utterance because he remembers that he hasn’t thus far put a number to the high-carbon-footprint products so the hand changes both direction and shape again to identify the high-carbon-footprint tomatoes (as ‘ten’ in the left-hand side of the gestural space). He then moves his hand to the right, back across the body in the way that he had done previously when referring to the low-carbon-footprint tomatoes to locate the low-carbon-footprint tomatoes in the right-hand side of the gestural space, again using a particular hand shape and hand configuration (back of the hand now pointing up at a 45° angle at this critical point). He also puts a figure to these low-carbon-footprint products, ‘six’ (see gesture 30)

And then comes the critical movement in the interview: this is the actual movement of choice. Walker and King (2008) tell us that the only way that we can save the planet is by changing our patterns of consumption and our everyday mundane choices. But will we actually do this? Andrew asserts that we will. He says that ‘people would be more inclined to go for the low carbon footprint’. You also get the impression that he is including himself in this category; he is really saying ‘people like me, people who espouse green attitudes, people who have explicit attitudes (deliberate, conscious, reflexive) that are very pro-low carbon’. But his unconscious hand gesture tells us something quite different here. The hand movement accompanying this critical part of the speech has exactly the same configuration and shape and points to exactly the same location in the gestural space as the gestural movement used earlier to refer to the high-carbon-footprint tomatoes (see gestures 27-29). In other words, we have a mismatch between what he is saying in his speech and what he is saying in his gestural movement. The unconscious movement seems to be reflecting his unconscious implicit attitude and appears to indicate (unambiguously) that his choice would not be the low-carbon-footprint tomatoes but the high-carbon-footprint tomatoes.

What is also fascinating about gesture 31 is its timing with respect to the accompanying speech. In the speech he says, ‘then I think people would be more inclined to go for the lower carbon footprint’, but notice how the gesture accompanies the words ‘then I think’. In other words, that part of the brain which generates gesture movement, working out of his unconscious, has already signified his true thoughts at that point in time. We can read his implicit attitude clearly at this point. No matter how green Andrew says he is, his unconscious gestural movement may tell us a good deal more about his actual behaviour in supermarkets (and also how he thinks others will behave).

One major factor in determining whether attitudes lead to behaviour is our perception of how we think others will behave, and I am convinced that gesture 31 tells us not only about Andrew’s implicit attitude, but also about his perception of the subjective norm when it comes to buying low-carbon-footprint products. His gesture tells us that he thinks that very few people will bother with the low-carbon-footprint products (and one can only speculate about his possible reason for this: perhaps he thinks that such products will be significantly more expensive). This therefore lets him off the hook.

Some time ago, McNeill speculated that the kinds of metaphorical gestures that accompany talk can act as ‘a window on the human mind’, and in this short sequence of bodily movements we get a glimpse into the human mind in action: saying one thing, but beneath the surface of the talk we can see something else going on, something that might hold the clue as to why we all are not doing more to save the planet.

So : yes if-if you’ve got something you can say : y’know these - [these tomatoes and their carbon footprint is : X](27) [and : these car](28) - [or :: [ten] for example](29) [and these car-these tomatoes and their carbon footprint is six](30) : [then I think](31) people would be more inclined to go for the :: the lower carbon footprint

[these tomatoes and their carbon footprint is : X](27)

Gesture 27: Left hand is raised to an area to the left of the body, making a chopping motion

[and : these car](28)

Gesture 28: Left hand then starts to move across the body but then stops halfway

[or :: [ten] for example](29)

Gesture 29: Left hand sweeps back to the left-hand side of the body and makes a chopping motion

[and these car-these tomatoes and their carbon footprint is six](30)

Gesture 30: Left hand sweeps across the body to an area on the right and makes a chopping motion

[then I think](31) people would be more inclined to go for the :: the lower carbon footprint

Gesture 31: Left hand sweeps across the body back to an area on the left-hand side, palms are facing upwards, fingers are spread


The next example shows something very similar. Each hand is used to represent high- and low-carbon-footprint products, and there is no ambiguity in this person’s mind about which is good and which is bad. She refers to them directly as ‘the good’ and ‘the bad’ and what she says in her speech explicitly is ‘if they were next to each other and it was obvious that one was good and one was bad then you would go for the good one.’

But again, look carefully at the gestural movements that accompany what she is saying. In gesture 35, she uses the left hand opening and closing and raised slightly above and in front of the right hand to signify the good one, that is to say the low-carbon-footprint product. In the next gesture (gesture 36) she uses the right hand with a very similar configuration and hand shape to represent the bad one (i.e. the high-carbon-footprint product), but the critical gesture again is when she talks about the actual moment of choice, she says ‘then you’d go for the good one’ but the accompanying gesture is executed by the right hand in that part of the gestural space used to represent the bad high-carbon-footprint products. Again this is someone whose explicit attitude is very pro-low carbon but whose implicit attitude is at odds with this, and in gesture 37 you see striking evidence of the unconscious implicit attitude breaking through. This participant may say that she would choose the low carbon option but the unconscious gesture tells us quite a different story.

There is something else that is quite striking about the behaviour of this participant. She repeatedly makes circular movements of the hand when she has displayed her choice in the gestural space, as if some discomfort were associated with the unconscious signalling of the choice. Her intonation is also a little unusual in that it sounds incomplete, again, as if she doesn’t want to commit herself. However, in terms of her lexical choices, and the use of specific lexical items, her choice is clear. It is just her unconscious behaviour, and specifically the behaviours over which she has least control (her gestural movements and her intonation), that are sending quite a different message.

I’d probably notice it but : at the same point if yo:u ::: [wanted that product then :: you probably buy it anyway](32) ::: and obviously [if they were next to each other](33) :: [and it was obvious](34) that [one was good and](35) [one was bad](36) [then you’d go for ::: [the good one]](37)

[wanted that product then :: you probably buy it anyway](32)

Gesture 32: Left hand is raised, fingers are spread, hand is lowered using small circular movements

[if they were next to each other](33)

Gesture 33: Both hands are raised in front of the chest, hands move backwards and forwards

[and it was obvious](34)

Gesture 34: Hands are raised in the centre of the gestural space, palms are facing away from the body, fingers are spread

[one was good and](35)

Gesture 35: Left hand then opens and closes, raised slightly above and in front of the right hand

[one was bad](36)

Gesture 36: Right hand then moves up so that it is slightly in front of the left hand

[then you’d go for ::: [the good one]](37)

Gesture 37: Right hand rises, left hand drops, right hand repeatedly makes smaller circular movements

There has been very little research until recently on the phenomenology or the experience of holding discrepant explicit and implicit attitudes, one notable exception being an interesting paper by Rydell, McConnell and Mackie (2008), who measured the consequences of holding discrepant explicit and implicit attitudes towards a person (‘Bob’). They found that one consequence of this was that when the implicit/explicit discrepancy was greater, dissonance or discomfort was aroused within the individual. In other words, people do not like being in this psychological state. Interestingly, it also had an effect on subsequent information processing such that the more discrepant the implicit and explicit attitudes actually were, the more the individuals then focused on information relevant to the object or concept.

In the gestural analyses we have just seen, we see for the very first time an identifiable behavioural manifestation of a discrepancy between implicit and explicit attitudes that may well help to promulgate a sense of unease or discomfort within the individual concerned. The conscious medium of speech and the unconscious medium of gesture seem to be at odds with one another; perhaps the individuals themselves can sense this behavioural clash and this might be the kind of thing that was reflected in gesture 37. This is a new hypothesis that could be worth testing.

Let me try another one. There is a good deal of evidence (from Festinger 1957 and others) that when people are pressurised to say things that are at odds with their underlying beliefs, they may change their underlying beliefs to align themselves with their behaviour because of cognitive dissonance. If you subscribe to this theoretical point of view, then one way of changing underlying attitudes to the environment is to get people to espouse green attitudes, in effect to get them to tell you how they would make green choices in supermarkets. The theory predicts that (through time) their underlying attitudes would change to match what they have been saying.

But suddenly for the first time we see that things may not be quite as simple as that. When people espouse green attitudes and when this is at odds with their unconscious implicit attitudes, they still have a form of overt communicative behaviour at their disposal (namely, gesture) to communicate their real attitude. Festinger and others analysed only talk itself. In 1957, we did not understand that there is something additional to words that can communicate our ideas and thoughts. So one interesting and important question becomes: when individuals espouse attitudes that are not congruent with their underlying beliefs (because they have been explicitly asked to, or have implicitly felt the social pressure to do this), but where they make these gestural movements that are congruent with their underlying, implicit attitude (like Andrew and Sarah), does this actually prevent a shift in underlying belief state? I think we have a new idea that could run and run in psychology!

The material that we have just been considering is entirely novel research and shows for the first time that when people openly and explicitly espouse green attitudes at odds with those attitudes that they hold unconsciously and implicitly, then we can find behaviour manifestations of this clash. These gesture-speech mismatches are not that common (with a frequency perhaps similar to slips of the tongue), but they do seem to indicate the unconscious slipping through into their observable behaviour.

There are a number of significant implications of this particular bit of research. The first is that what people tell us about their attitude to the environment and what consumer choices they will actually make may, on occasion, be a valuable resource for researchers, but on other occasions people may tell us one thing while their unconscious gestural movement may tell quite a different (and more accurate) story. Therefore, it may be wrong, in research on green issues, to focus exclusively on what people say. Explicitly people may want to save the planet, explicitly people may want to appear green, explicitly (and almost certainly) people may want to appear considerate and nice, but implicitly they may care a good deal less. And given that it is these implicit attitudes that direct and control much of our spontaneous and non-reflective behaviour in supermarkets and elsewhere, these are the attitudes that we have to pursue and understand and change.

The second implication is that there does appear to be a dissociation between explicit and implicit attitudes. There does appear to be a conscious mind and an unconscious one. The unconscious mind may not be governed in quite the way that Freud had thought (obsessed with sexual gratification and the libido), but it is there and it does impact on our everyday behaviour. It affects the way we shop, how we talk, how we move, how we gesture, and it can even produce visible signs of discomfort as we speak (with odd, uncertain hand movements and strange, incomplete intonation), sometimes leaving us all a little puzzled: even the green fakers themselves, even me.

The implication of all of this for those wishing to do something about climate change should be clear. It is not sufficient to rely on explicit measures of attitude to low-carbon-footprint products and make assumptions about how easy it will be to change consumer behaviour as a result of providing carbon footprint information (as some others have done: see Downing and Ballantyne 2007). Rather, a significant proportion of individuals have implicit attitudes that are discrepant with their explicit attitudes and this may have significant implications for their ‘green’ choices. And, on occasion, when you analyse the talk of such individuals you can see the unconscious implicit attitudes of these individuals, so rigidly held and so deeply suppressed, suddenly and unexpectedly revealing themselves as the speaker lays out his or her apparently green agenda. Their sudden appearance seems to surprise everyone, even sometimes the speakers themselves.