|Leading Environmental Sustainability: From Behavioral Research to Community Intervention
|Saturday, May 24, 2008
|2:30 PM–3:50 PM
|Area: CSE/EAB; Domain: Applied Research
|Chair: E. Scott Geller (Virginia Tech)
|Abstract: Four data-based presentations on environmentally responsible behaviors (ERBs) and issues of sustainability will be presented. The first paper extends previous research conducted in the Center for Applied Behavior Systems examining techniques for encouraging high-impact behavioral responses to the critical environmental problem of global warming. Implications for environmental protection on a large scale will be discussed. The second presentation reports on research involving implementation of a public pledge strategy to increase reusable bag use in a community setting. Implications of the findings for the development of interventions to help increase environmentally sustainable behavior will be discussed. The third paper presents data from rankings and ratings measures, based on a model of person factors, used to develop effective anti-litter messages. Results of this study and implications on message prompts used to target ERBs will be discussed. The final paper presents data on the effectiveness of antecedent message prompts to reduce littering behaviors, using a handbill methodology. The effects of positive vs. negative messages on amount of litter will be discussed.
|Does Pre-Behavior Reward Enhance Commitment? A Test of a Reciprocity-Based Strategy for Encouraging Environmental Activism.
|DAVID MICHAEL HARRIS (Virginia Tech), Philip K. Lehman (Virginia Tech), Elise A. Drake (Virginia Tech), E. Scott Geller (Virginia Tech), Madison R. Earnest, III (Virginia Tech)
|Abstract: Environmental degradation poses serious threats to human health and quality of life. While behavioral interventions to improve environmentally-responsible behavior (ERB) have been successful, they have been criticized for focusing on low-impact targets and over-using reward strategies. Environmental activism in the form of petitioning government and industry may be the most environmentally-beneficial behavior individuals can conveniently perform. Despite the potential for large pro-environmental impact, the literature to date contains only one published intervention in which activism behaviors were targeted. The current study extends previous research conducted in the Center for Applied Behavior Systems examining techniques for encouraging high-impact behavioral responses to the critical environmental problem of global warming. Specifically, the effect of a standard informational appeal for action will be compared to appeals enhanced by (a) behavioral commitment and (b) behavioral commitment and a pre-behavior reward. The dependent measures for the study will include signatures on web-based petitions to automakers, and letters to government representatives. Implications of results for environmental protection on a large scale will be discussed.
|A Voluntary Reusable Bag Community: Using a Public Pledge Event to Increase Environmentally Sustainable Behavior.
|MADISON R. EARNEST, III (Virginia Tech), Rachael E. Budowle (Center for Applied Behavior Systems, Virginia Tech), Elise A. Drake (Virginia Tech), E. Scott Geller (Virginia Tech)
|Abstract: Human behavior has a significant impact upon the environment. Community interventions can help to increase environmentally sustainable behavior on a large scale. One such behavior is the elimination of disposable shopping bag use in favor of reusable bags. Plastic bags in particular have been found to be detrimental to the environment. Not only is a significant amount of fossil fuel required to produce plastic bags, but the bags do not easily or quickly biodegrade. Those that do biodegrade as litter break down into many tiny toxic particles. Even as large pieces of litter, plastic bags clog bodies of water and become a hazard to animals. Despite these consequences, disposable bag use remains high. As opposed to banning or taxing bags, one town implemented a public pledge strategy to increase reusable bag use. This pledge was introduced at a major community kick off event. Local store plastic and paper bag ordering rates before and after the intervention will be compared, and self report surveys will be administered to citizens. Feedback strategies will be used to inform the community of their overall behavior change. Results of these strategies will be discussed.
|A Systematic Approach to Design Litter Control Prompts: Do Person Factors Make a Difference?
|ELISE A. DRAKE (Virginia Tech), Xin Zhao (Virginia Tech), E. Scott Geller (Virginia Tech)
|Abstract: Numerous behavioral studies have used antecedent prompts to prevent littering. According to one neurological model of punishment vs. reward sensitivity (Gray, 1987) individuals differentially respond to environmental antecedents as a function of the reactivity of two neurological systems (Behavioral Inhibition System and Behavioral Activation System) proposed to respond to relevant environmental cues of reward and punishment. The current study offers that a neurological model of personality can help inform interventions targeting litter behaviors. A person factors model of individual sensitivity was used to provide social validity to an investigation of litter messages. The purpose of this research was to develop effective message prompts to be used in subsequent research of litter behaviors. Participants were asked to rate both positive and negative anti-litter messages. Participants were also asked to rank-order messages to determine those that would be most influential in altering their individual behaviors in relation to littering. Data gathered from this investigation were used to develop final messages for a subsequent intervention study of message prompting on litter behaviors. Results and implications of ratings, as well as correlations between individual’s scores on a measure of reward vs. punishment sensitivity and their preference of positive vs. negative messages will be reported.
|A Field Evaluation of Positive vs. Negative Litter Prompts: Recycling Behavioral Research From the 1970’s.
|XIN ZHAO (Virginia Tech), Elise A. Drake (Virginia Tech), E. Scott Geller (Virginia Tech)
|Abstract: Litter, defined as misplaced waste material (Geller et al., 1982), is a form of environmental degradation that not only degrades the beauty of the environment, but is also costly to taxpayers. Numerous behavior science attempts have used prompts and cues as antecedents to prevent littering. This study examines the effectiveness of antecedent message prompts to reduce littering behaviors, using a handbill methodology. At several grocery “specials of the day” handbills were distributed to customers, with one of several special anti-litter messages (message implying a positive consequence or implying a negative consequence) boldly printed on the bottom of the front of the handbill, below the daily specials, as well as on the back of the handbill in larger print. Handbills from a no-antecedent condition (baseline) were identical to antecedent handbills, with the exception that there was no message prompt. The dependent variable of this study was number of handbills littered. Independent variables of the study were gender and message type. The methodology described in this study is relatively both cost and time efficient. It can be replicated in towns and cities across the country in a variety of settings. Results of the message manipulation, as well as gender differences, will be discussed.