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Dean Seminar2008 Enviro
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Dean Seminar2008 Enviro


Invited talk on current research investigating factors that influence pro-environmental behaviors and attitudes. Talk presented at Indiana University, South Bend, Nov. 2008.

Invited talk on current research investigating factors that influence pro-environmental behaviors and attitudes. Talk presented at Indiana University, South Bend, Nov. 2008.

Published in Education , Career , Business
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  • Abstract Conventional wisdom suggests that environmental education increases sustainable practices to lessen the negative impacts humans have on the environment. Yet, educational programs that encourage pro-environmental behaviors may be time consuming and cost prohibitive. Current research in environmental psychology suggests that the way in which people associate themselves to nature may be related to self-reported environmental conservation behaviors. In a series of experiments, we test this model of environmental perception and discover a nuanced view on how people relate themselves to the natural and built environment. Results from these experiments challenge current models of connectedness with nature, which view implicit associations with nature as a dispositional trait. We offer an alternative model on connectedness with nature that accounts for contextual factors (e.g., meteorological conditions, seasonal variations) that influence people’s perceptions of nature. In addition, we explore how simple design aspects in the workplace may dramatically affect recycling compliance. Theoretical and practical implications regarding human perceptions about the natural and built environment are discussed.


  • 1. The Role of (Human) Nature on Environmental Action Michelle Verges Indiana University, South Bend [email_address]
  • 2. I Couldn’t Have Done it Without You
    • Dean Lynn Williams
    • Department of Psychology, IUSB
    • Sara Unsworth, San Diego State University
    • Sean Duffy, Rutgers University
    • That’s right - You!
  • 3. The Bag Lady
  • 4.  
  • 5.  
  • 6. APS (May, 2007)
  • 7. Is there a relationship between environmental attitudes and sustainable behaviors?
  • 8. Think of nature…
  • 9.  
  • 10.  
  • 11.  
  • 12.  
  • 13. Connection to Nature
    • Like bears, humans are part of nature.
    • We evolved and have spent 99% of human history as hunter gatherers in natural environments
    • It would be surprising if humans were not intimately connected to nature
    • But what does it mean to be connected to nature?
  • 14. Connection to Nature
    • One school of thought: Connection to nature mediates pro-environmental behavior and action (Schultz, Mayer & Franz)
    • Developed an implicit association task (IAT) that measures connection with nature.
    • IAT measures implicit attitudes – those that one cannot (or choose not) to verbalize.
    • For instance, do you believe that men make better doctors and women make better secretaries?
  • 15. Women Men On the next several slides you will see typical male and female names. If the name is female, tap your left hand on the desk. If the name is male, tap your right hand on the desk .
  • 16. Women Men John
  • 17. Women Men Robert
  • 18. Women Men Jane
  • 19. Women Men Michael
  • 20. Women Men Jennifer
  • 21. Women Men Mary
  • 22. Women Men Karen
  • 23. Women Men Bill
  • 24. Women Men Thomas
  • 25. Women Men Kate
  • 26. Career Family On the next several slides you will see typical career and family roles. If the word is career, tap your left hand on the desk. If the word is home, tap your right hand on the desk.
  • 27. Career Family management
  • 28. Career Family relatives
  • 29. Career Family professional
  • 30. Career Family corporation
  • 31. Career Family marriage
  • 32. Career Family children
  • 33. Career Family career
  • 34. Career Family parents
  • 35. Career Family salary
  • 36. Career Family home
  • 37. Career Family office
  • 38. Career Family business
  • 39. Career Family family
  • 40. Career Family wedding
  • 41. Block A
  • 42. Career or Male Family or Female On the next several slides you will see typical career and family roles, as well as names. Please categorize as you did before.
  • 43. Career or Male management Family or Female
  • 44. Career or Male children Family or Female
  • 45. Career or Male John Family or Female
  • 46. Career or Male Michael Family or Female
  • 47. Career or Male relatives Family or Female
  • 48. Career or Male office Family or Female
  • 49. Career or Male Karen Family or Female
  • 50. Career or Male corporation Family or Female
  • 51. Career or Male marriage Family or Female
  • 52. Career or Male Mary Family or Female
  • 53. Career or Male parents Family or Female
  • 54. Career or Male career Family or Female
  • 55. Career or Male Jennifer Family or Female
  • 56. Career or Male salary Family or Female
  • 57. Career or Male professional Family or Female
  • 58. Career or Male business Family or Female
  • 59. Career or Male Bill Family or Female
  • 60. Career or Male family Family or Female
  • 61. Career or Male Jane Family or Female
  • 62. Career or Male home Family or Female
  • 63. Career or Male Robert Family or Female
  • 64. Career or Male Kate Family or Female
  • 65. Career or Male wedding Family or Female
  • 66. Career or Male Thomas Family or Female
  • 67. Block B
  • 68. Career or Female Family or Male On the next several slides you will see typical career and family roles, as well as names. Please categorize as you did before
  • 69. Career or Female management Family or Male
  • 70. Career or Female children Family or Male
  • 71. Career or Female John Family or Male
  • 72. Career or Female Michael Family or Male
  • 73. Career or Female relatives Family or Male
  • 74. Career or Female office Family or Male
  • 75. Career or Female Karen Family or Male
  • 76. Career or Female corporation Family or Male
  • 77. Career or Female marriage Family or Male
  • 78. Career or Female Mary Family or Male
  • 79. Career or Female parents Family or Male
  • 80. Career or Female career Family or Male
  • 81. Career or Female Jennifer Family or Male
  • 82. Career or Female salary Family or Male
  • 83. Career or Female professional Family or Male
  • 84. Career or Female business Family or Male
  • 85. Career or Female Bill Family or Male
  • 86. Career or Female family Family or Male
  • 87. Career or Female Jane Family or Male
  • 88. Career or Female home Family or Male
  • 89. Career or Female Robert Family or Male
  • 90. Career or Female Kate Family or Male
  • 91. Career or Female wedding Family or Male
  • 92. Career or Female Thomas Family or Male
  • 93. Which was easier?
    • Block A or Block B?
    • For most people – even those who say they believe in equal working rights, block A is easier than Block B.
  • 94. Implicit connection to nature
    • Schultz et al. (2004) developed a ‘connection to nature IAT’
    • Relative speed of categorizing SELF (I, me my, mine, myself) and NOT ME (it, they, them, their, other) with NATURE and BUILT words
    • Found people overwhelmingly connected to nature
  • 95.  
  • 96.  
  • 97.  
  • 98.
    • If people have a “primitive” belief that favors nature over the built environment, then stimulus valence should have no effect on people’s implicit connections to nature.
    • We hypothesized, however, that emotional connotations derived from words influence people’s connection to nature.
    Connection to Nature IAT
  • 99.
    • Original Items
    • NATURE: animals, birds, plants, whales, trees
    • BUILT: building, car, city, factory, street
    • New Test Items
    • NATURE: beach, dove, fish, flower, river; bees, fungus, manure, snake, thorn
    • BUILT: bed, clothing, house, toy, trophy; bullet, cellar, coffin, needle, tomb
    Undergraduates from Rutgers University participated in one of three IAT experiments: 1 - Connection to nature IAT using original stimulus items 2 - IAT using positive nature and negative built items 3 - IAT using negative nature and positive built items
  • 100. Results (Verges & Duffy, in press, Environment and Behavior ) -200 -150 -100 -50 0 50 100 150 200 Standard Nature IAT Positive Nature IAT Negative Nature IAT Stronger connection to nature Stronger connection to built
  • 101.
    • Methodological point: Able to replicate prior findings regarding people’s implicit connections with nature
    • Extended those findings to reveal a tendency to implicitly associate oneself to positive aspects of the built and natural environments
    • Contextual information may be a factor when considering people’s association with nature…
  • 102. Oh, the weather outside is frightful!
    • If valence moderates implicit connection with nature, might emotional associations of nature influence connectedness as well?
    • In temperate climates, it is COLD during the winter, and mild during autumn and spring.
    • Spring is known for its pastel of flowers, autumn for its golden leaves, winter for its grayish browns?
  • 103. Oh, the weather outside is frightful!
    • People spend time in nature during spring and autumn, but less so in winter.
    • In winter people are protected from nature by coats that try to keep nature at bay.
    • Might there be seasonal and meteorological variations regarding connection to nature?
    • To test this, we ran the Schultz et al. (2004) from October to April, keeping track of weather and precipitation.
  • 104. Stronger connection with nature Stronger connection with built (Duffy & Verges, under review, Journal of Environmental Psychology )
  • 105. Stronger connection with nature Stronger connection with built (Duffy & Verges, under review, Journal of Environmental Psychology )
  • 106.
    • Stronger evidence for contextual factors and connectedness with nature
    • In layman’s terms, people seem to be “fair-weather friends” regarding their association with nature
    • Findings bear implications regarding current views on connectedness with nature. But do these findings have anything to say about conservation behaviors?
  • 107. Without bribing, forcing, telling, or relying on spurious emotions, how can we reliably improve pro-environmental behaviors?
  • 108. Started noticing a pattern...
  • 109. Started noticing a pattern...
  • 110. Control condition   Experimental condition
  • 111.  
  • 112.  
  • 113. Results (Duffy & Verges, in press, Environment and Behavior )
  • 114. Results
  • 115.
    • The design of the environment profoundly shapes behavior
    • Not just limited to recycling...we can design environments that may afford myriad behaviors (i.e., streets that afford not getting lost, buildings that afford efficient work...)
    • It is hard to change people’s attitudes or beliefs, but one can tacitly affect behavior by building better environments.
  • 116. Thank You!