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Understanding Conservation Behavior Through The Lens of Psychology

Understanding Conservation Behavior Through The Lens of Psychology

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by May 11, 2017 Science

The issues surrounding the natural environment can be understood in various approaches. In the lens of Conservation Psychology, the environmental problems can be mitigated through the use of psychological principles.

Conservation Psychology suggests that the human behavior is very vital in changing the current scenario of the environment. According to Richard Osbaldiston (2013), “individuals have to change their behavior”.

Osbaldiston believes that the application of psychological principles “can influence individual behavior related to environmental issues”. He uses two approaches to collect the data needed for the body of research – experimental and theoretical.

Let us know more about the two approaches presented by Osbaldiston.

Experimental Approach

According to Osbaldiston (2013), experimental designs are used to promote conservation behaviors. The approach “compares a treatment or intervention against a control group to test the effectiveness of the treatment at promoting behaviors”.

He identified in his meta-analysis ten treatments or interventions to promote conservation behaviors. The following are as follows:

  • Making it easy (changing circumstances to make the behavior more convenient)
  • Using prompts (reminders to call attention to when or where it is appropriate to perform the behavior
  • Providing justifications (rational reasons as to why the behavior should be performed)
  • Providing instructions (how to perform the behavior)
  • Providing feedback (about the extent to which a person has performed the desired behavior)
  • Providing rewards (incentives for performing desired behavior)
  • Social modeling (passing information from one group to the other through demonstration)
  • Utilizing cognitive dissonance (access pre-existing attitudes or beliefs that are consistent with the desired behavior)
  • Requiring commitment (dedication in performing the behavior)
  • Setting goals (performance of the desired behavior)

Despite the design resulting in environmental impact, the research on conservation behavior focused greatly on “just a small set of behaviors”. The most studied behavior is recycling, followed by energy conservation; water conservation; and gasoline conservation.

img3 - Understanding Conservation Behavior Through The Lens of Psychology

Theoretical Approach

On the other hand, theoretical research used surveys to “assess how various psychological constructs are related to conservation behaviors.” Basically, this approach assesses a variety of underlying psychological constructs including attitudes, knowledge, motives, values, and norms, which are hypothesized to influence conservation behavior.

Through the theoretical research, there have been dozens of theories that have been proposed “to explain why people engage in conservation behavior”. However, only six theories were reviewed and were widely used to represent Conservation Psychology.

The frequently used theory in conservation psychology research was the Theory of Planned Behavior by IcekAjzen (1991). The theory suggests that “a person’s behavior is determined by his/her intention to perform the behavior and that this intention is, in turn, a function of his/her attitude toward the behavior and his/her subjective norm.” Bamberg and Moser used this theory to study pro-environmental behavior.

The greatest strength of the theoretical approach is that it allows researchers to use different predictor variables. However, there are differences in how these variables are being defined. They have varied views on standard concepts such as attitudes, skills, values, norms, beliefs, and knowledge. Further, the theoretical approach does not actually observe conservation behavior, rather, most of them are based on self-report measures.”

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