Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Contextual (setting /situational) control of pro /anti environmental behavior
by Hill, Dawn Marie, Ph.D., The University of Arizona, 2008, 180; 3337299
Abstract (Summary)

Proenvironmental behavior (PEB) studies have largely taken a person-centered approach under the assumption that behavior is primarily determined by person attributes. Studies measure knowledge, values, environmentalism, attitudes, etc.–all of which apparently reside in the individual and are posited to cause pro/anti-environmental intention. Unfortunately, it has been demonstrated that intention only leads to behavior roughly 30% of the time. One reason this breakdown may exist is that half of the "causal" story is missing, which is how much the context (setting/situation) controls behavior. This study attempted to enhance the empirical literature by relying on an evolutionary foundation focused on an empirical investigation of extant contexts that present to-be-solved adaptive problems and that display affordances and cues to adaptive behavior. Furthermore, this study compares the predictive efficacy of both the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) constructs and new evolutionary and functionalist constructs of life history strategy, environmentalism (conceived more as past behavioral history) and consumerism. This study simultaneously contrast-tested this new evolutionarily and contextually-driven approach with the conventional person-centered approach using the same subjects to empirically determine which approach accounts for the most variance (i.e. a multiple working hypothesis format). The dependent variable presented a closer approximation to real behavior in real-life situations as depicted in written multidimensional vignettes, instead of measuring intention alone in a contextual vacuum. Environmental and non-environmental settings were included, as well as theoretically driven situational dimensions that varied systematically to strategically "cue" specific adaptive problems. This study approach relied on the notion that only when the person by context relationship is studied simultaneously can PEB be better predicted. Results confirmed that settings carried a significant proportion of variance in the collapsed 16 situations tested. The TPB paradigm predicted aggregate behavior; however, it (along with measured specific intentions) did not predict specific behavioral choices in the unique situations. Overall results were mixed but suggested that new lines of research attending to the contexts and social situations in which environmental behavior occurs can provide a better basis for understanding and affecting changes in behavior toward environmental ends, as will be required for achieving long-term environmental sustainability.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Daniel, Terry C.
Commitee: Figueredo, Aurelio J., Jacobs, William J.
School: The University of Arizona
Department: Psychology
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: DAI-B 69/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Behavioral psychology
Keywords: Behavior, Conservation, Context, Environmental, Environmental behavior, Evolutionary, Situation
Publication Number: 3337299
ISBN: 978-0-549-92034-2
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