The Two Outcomes of Conservation Psychology Research
Conservation Psychology aims to provide an understanding of how to make the environment sustainable for humans and other living things. There has been researching conducted to discover means for the prevention or delay of environmental deterioration. Apart from the lenses of Psychology, other designs and approaches of research can support the end goal of environmental sustainability.
Carol Saunders (2003) proposed two broad outcome categories as a way to formulate questions. According to her, organizing research areas in Conservation Psychology is according to these two broad outcome areas:
- how humans behave towards nature (with the goal of creating durable behavior change at multiple levels and sustainable relationships), and/or
- how humans care about/value nature (with the goal of creating harmonious relationships and an environmental ethic)
Within these outcome areas, research questions may vary with regards to the individual or group level. To obtain these outcome categories, Saunders suggested three approaches: theoretical, applied and evaluative.
Basically, a sustainable environment can be achieved through the rejection of negative behaviors that harm the environment. We can adopt environmental-friendly practices, including but not limited to, recycling, waste segregation, water conservation, energy conservation, and using CFC-free products. These are called conservation behavior.
According to Saltz and Berger-Tal, conservation behavior “assists the investigation of species endangerment associated with managing animals impacted by anthropogenic activities”. It is still associated with how human behavior can directly affect the sustainability of the natural environment.
Understanding the Psychology of Behavior Change
There have been numerous studies to discuss how individuals and groups can achieve conservation behavior. For Kurz (2002), there are four psychological rational approaches to environmentally sustainable behavior: rational economic models, social-dilemmas models, attitude models and models based on behavior modification and learning theory.
There have also been approaches that attempted to look at the relationships between attitudes, beliefs, values, knowledge, and behaviors, among others.
Developing Behavior Change Strategies and Measuring Success
According to Saunders (2003), research areas related to conservation behavior will focus on “how to identify the most appropriate strategies for producing environmental behavior change” and “how to measure the success of those applications with respect to the CP mission”.
There have been various researchers who attempted to identify behavioral change strategies based on approaches derived from the literature.
Caring About/Valuing Nature
This outcome category refers to the harmonious relationship of individuals and groups with nature. “It includes concerns about the quality of life for humans and other species, as well as the quality of the human-nature relationship itself.”
Understanding the Psychology of Caring About Nature
The theoretical approaches for understanding the relationship between humans and nature need to extract (1) the effects of experiences of humans with the natural environment (2) their concept of “care for nature” (3) humans’ means of taking care of animals and nature and (4) their environmental values.
Developing Strategies to Foster Caring, Shape Values, and Measure Success
According to Saunders, applied research can be used to (1) “identify the most promising strategies for fostering ways of caring about nature” (2) “find ways to reframe debates and strategically communicate to the existing values that people have” (3) “identify the most promising strategies for shifting the societal discourse about human-nature relationships” and (4) “measure the success of these applications with respect to the CP mission”.