Conservation Psychology Principles

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Part
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Conservation Psychology Principles - Part 1

The main conservation psychology and ecopsychology principles that influence people to act on environmental issues are invoking the emotional connection between people and the environment and invoking associations that help people understand how conservation of the environment is critical to human health and the rest of nature. Strategies that can influence people to change behavior towards environmental issues involve sparking empathy and understanding by using virtual technologies, using compelling imagery, and forging through experiential events like eating cookies made with smog.

STRATEGIES, TACTICS, AND METHODS

Establish a connection between people and animals

  • Empathy is a tactic that is necessarily used by conservation psychologists to drive feeling and action as evidenced by the human-centered approach at Mad*Pow, and National Geographic Explorer photographer Ronan Donovan's use of Max the chimpanzee to produce heart-tugging imagery to tell stories.
  • The SEE Change Institute's strategy to influence people to take action for environmental concerns is through imagery on popular TV and film media, and they seek to not just change people's behavior but to seek creative methods of communication.

Demonstrate the connections between people and place

  • Dr. Jeremy Bailenson of the Virtual Human Interaction Lab at Stanford University describes using virtual technology to help people change attitudes and behaviors in the same way as actually experiencing a climate change related disaster makes people believe in climate change, but without the damage.
  • This tactic stresses bringing what seems like faw-away events to the forefront and spark people to action sooner rather than later.

APPROACHES AND EFFECTIVENESS

Respect people's autonomy and the psychology of motivation

  • Amy Bucher, Pj.D, addressed the psychology of motivation and the importance of recognizing self-autonomy when designing behavior change tactics for individual, group, and societal levels so that it produces meaningful results and preserves individual autonomy.
  • Recognizing that there is no universal morality associated with conservation it is found that values-based appeals work for some but are off-putting to others. Important themes to remember with this approach are that positioning conservation behaviors as individual initiatives and goals is an effective way to help people adopt behavior changes to affect and maintain conservation efforts even if for future generations.

WELL-RECEIVED MESSAGING

STRATEGY

UX Planet and 2017 WWF's annual Fuller Symposium themed "The Nature of Change: The Science of Influencing Behavior" provided a plethora of information regarding the necessity of using behavior change science to conservation to influence positive actions on environmental issues. They covered psychology of motivation, the role of identity and values, behavioral change as a systems issue, and empathy as a change agent to identify how to get people to enact positive changes for the environment. This symposium tackles this conversation of how use conservation psychology to influence people to make positive changes for the environment and contains a plethora of valuable information for this research. All presentations from the symposium are available online and can be accessed here. We primarily used information from the many presentations from the symposium due to their applicability to the topic and the information came from numerous credible and reputable sources. Other sources were also consulted and all information is included above.
Part
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Conservation Psychology Principles - Part 2

Three psychological roadblocks to getting through to new audiences on conservation/ecological issues identified below are 1) High rate of poverty and hunger, 2) The challenge of hygiene and sanitation, and 3) Population growth, culture, and high level of illiteracy. On the other hand, two things that cause people to close their minds or not care about environmental issues are 1) Fake news/undermining of science, and 2) Belief of political prejudice or commercial interests. Each of these findings is backed with supporting information to lay credence.

PSYCHOLOGICAL ROADBLOCKS

HIGH RATE OF POVERTY AND HUNGER

  • New audiences not currently aware of conservation or ecological issues or who don't consider them essential are domiciled mostly in developing countries. Many of these countries are financially weak, and it costs lots of money to address environmental issues.
  • In many developing countries, areas exposed to government protection are less than 30%, while some are as low as 0.4% (Haiti).
  • As a result, the idea of enlightenment of an environmentally-friendly society runs in contradiction with the rural poor when told not to use heat in their homes to cook food.
  • It would be difficult for new audiences in developing countries to be able to tackle conservation or ecological issues because they are destitute. Besides, in many cases, 100% of the population is exposed to unsafe air pollution levels.

THE CHALLENGE OF HYGIENE AND SANITATION

POPULATION GROWTH, CULTURE, AND HIGH LEVEL OF ILLITERACY

  • Rapid population growth has been highly linked to environmental destruction over the years. Whereas a country like China formulated stringent birth control laws to tame population growth, developing countries are not thinking in this direction, mainly due to cultural beliefs and the high level of illiteracy.
  • Family planning is anti-cultural to new audiences, particularly for those in the rural regions. Without adherence to family planning or birth control initiatives, the population will continue growing at a rapid rate and will continue to cause widespread environmental degradation.
  • For instance, the wildlife that was once widespread is eroding, and as population increases, humans are further encroaching on game parks that serve to conserve the wildlife. There is little or nothing that is done when resources around the park are infringed on.
  • The rate of deforestation is alarming as new audiences in developing countries make use of forest trees for building materials and firewood, without the slightest knowledge of the adverse impact such action has on the environment. Their non-awareness can be majorly attributed to their illiteracy on the subject matter.

INDIFFERENCE TO ECOLOGICAL ISSUES

FAKE NEWS AND UNDERMINING OF SCIENCE

  • The rate of fake news and "antiscience movements may have significantly harmed the trust people place in scientific advice and the connection between science and policy." As a result, the scientific thesis of environmental issues that could hurt the world is no longer a bother for some people.
  • It is now commonplace to see situations where expertise is challenged through the use of fake news or antiintellectual rhetoric by the media, politicians, and other vested interests. The Trump administration is one of the leading examples in this regard.

BELIEF OF POLITICAL PREJUDICE OR COMMERCIAL INTERESTS

  • One of the things that cause people to close their minds or not care about environmental issues is the belief of underlying political or commercial interests in such a campaign.
  • It is the conventional thinking that the emphasis on this subject matter cannot be dissociated from the interests of the influential business and political mafia who want to rip off the ordinary people. This would be done through the legislation of policies or the introduction of products into the market that would benefit them.

RESEARCH STRATEGY

We started our findings by identifying some psychological roadblocks to getting through to new audiences on conservation/ecological issues. First, we were able to locate that new audience is more prevalent in developing countries due to the high levels of poverty, illiteracy, and lack of infrastructure, to mention a few. Going forward, we identified and described three psychological roadblocks, and consequently, we analyzed some case studies/articles written on each. From there, we were able to back our findings with information supporting each.

We used a similar approach as above to shortlist two things which cause people to close their minds or not listen or care about environmental issues. We analyzed some case studies/articles written on each and backed our findings with information supporting each.





















Part
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Part
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Conservation Psychology Principles - Part 3

People donate to causes, especially environmental causes, because they believe in these causes, they feel it is their obligation to do so, they feel their governments are not doing enough, these causes relate to their personal experiences, or they are naturally altruistic. Normative incentives promoting herd mentality, messages leveraging positive emotions, and real and authentic stories are some factors that inspire people to change their behavior for conservation purposes.

REASONS PEOPLE DONATE TO CAUSES

BELIEF IN CAUSE
  • Some people donate to causes because they believe in these causes. In the United Kingdom, for example, around 84% of people who donate to environmental or conservation-related causes say they do so because of their belief in said causes. Across causes in said country, belief in cause is overwhelmingly the number one reason people donate.
  • In the United States, some people donate because they trust that the charity they are donating to will put their money to good use. In said country, trust was the second most common reason people give money to causes.
  • In Australia, one of the reasons members of the Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network (AEGN) donate to environmental causes is these members' belief that "the environment is at risk," environmental damage poses a threat to both societal security and health, and their contribution, though small, can make a meaningful difference.
SENSE OF OBLIGATION
  • Some people donate to causes because they believe it is their obligation to do so.
  • In the United Kingdom, for example, around 48% of people who donate to environmental or conservation-related causes say they do so out of obligation.
  • In Australia, one of the reasons members of the AEGN donate to environmental causes is these members' sense of obligation. They feel that they need to do their part.
LACK OF GOVERNMENT ACTION
  • Some people donate to causes because they feel the government is not doing enough for the cause.
  • In the United Kingdom, for example, around 32% of people who donate to environmental or conservation-related causes say they do so because they believe the actions their government is taking are not enough.
  • In Australia, one of the reasons members of the AEGN donate to environmental causes is these members' belief that "not enough is being done."
PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
  • Some people donate to causes because of their personal experiences with these causes. In the United States and the United Kingdom, for example, people who donate to environmental causes were, in many instances, swayed by their personal experiences, for example, being raised by parents who regularly give to environmental causes, growing up in areas close to nature, or seeing melting ice caps firsthand.
  • In the United Kingdom, around 29% of people who donate to environmental or conservation-related causes say they do so because of their personal experiences with said causes.
  • In Australia, one of the reasons members of the AEGN donate to environmental causes is these members' "love, respect, and awe for the environment." Most of these members had visited or were raised in natural environments, feel a spiritual or peaceful connection with nature, or have scientific careers that give them a better understanding of nature or the environment.
ALTRUISM
  • Some people donate to causes because charitable giving is something they always do. They have this genuine, altruistic concern for less fortunate people, the environment, or animals.
  • In the United Kingdom, around 20% of people who donate to environmental or conservation-related causes say they do so because charitable giving is something they always do.
  • In the United States, the most common reason for giving is altruism.

FACTORS INSPIRING CHANGE IN BEHAVIOR

NORMATIVE INCENTIVES
  • Based on a research study, normative incentives, which leverage herd mentality, bring about the biggest pro-environmental behavior change.
  • People are inspired to do something for the good of the environment when they see numerous other people doing it.
  • A field experiment revealed that, when it came to motivating people to change their behavior and conserve energy, the placard "Join your neighbors in conserving energy" turned out to be more effective than a placard showing a financial incentive, "Save money by conserving energy," a placard showing a moral incentive, "Protect the environment by conserving energy," or a placard showing a social incentive, "Do your part to conserve energy for future generations."
POSITIVE EMOTIONS
  • When inspiring people to change their behavior for conservation purposes, messages that leverage positive emotions such as gratitude, pride, joy, and compassion work better than messages that leverage negative emotions such as guilt, fear, and disgust.
  • A study involving university students in Australia found that habitual environmental behavior is positively associated with feelings of pride but negatively associated with feelings of guilt.
  • Extremely technical statistics that are meant to scare people or make them feel guilty hardly stir people's sense of compassion and care. Unlike negative messaging, which backfires at times, positive messaging inspires change without eliciting defensiveness.
AUTHENTIC AND RELATABLE STORIES
  • Environmental campaigns are more effective in inspiring people to take action when they involve real people, characters, or stories that the audience can relate to.
  • In Canada, there was a study that found that, when encouraging people to act on climate change, messages with strong place attachment work better than messages with weak place attachment. People respond better to messages that have a human face and are tailored to them or their locality.
  • An individual human with an authentic story can attract more attention than a faceless organization.
Part
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Part
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Conservation Psychology Principles - Part 4

After an exhaustive search through credible sources, it appears that information is not sufficient to present two to three examples of conservation psychology and/or ecopsychology tactics/strategies/approaches that have failed in the past to motivate people.

KEY RELEVANT INSIGHTS

CONSERVATION PSYCHOLOGY OR ECOPSYCHOLOGY STRATEGIES/APPROACHES
  • According to the American Psychological Association, "conservation psychology clearly draws from environmental psychology, as well as from other sub-disciplines of psychology, but it is distinctive in its focus on the natural environment and its explicit outcome orientation."
  • Also, ecopsychology research and practice examples include adapting outdoor activities into therapy or counseling, hindering burnout and melancholy regarding environmental concerns, and comprehending phenomenal experiences in nature.
  • Psychological Solutions and Strategies highlights how vital it is to evaluate climate change as well as other environmental hurdles as originating in psychological operations rather than observing them as merely technical and scientific issues.
DESTRUCTION OF EXPERIENCE AND THE FAILURE OF ECOPSYCHOLOGY

Research Strategy:

Our research began by looking for case studies from Research Gate, Human Ecology Forum, American Psychological Association, European Journal of Ecopsychology, ScienceDirect, etc. We also scoured through blogs/media publications like INC, NYTimes, Medium, the San Diego Free Press, among others, aiming to find case studies/research/surveys that would help us discover the organization behind the approach, what they did, their reasoning, and the results of those actions. However, this strategy did not yield any relevant results as most information available focused on climate change, conservation psychology with heart, and a model for conservation psychology.

Afterward, we attempted to triangulate the information by looking for a list of conservation organizations that may conduct or sponsor such studies or provide insights regarding them or their strategies. For this, we initially searched through the list of 'Top 10 Wildlife Conservation Organizations' from ThoughtCo. We later scanned their respective websites, blogs, press releases, and annual reports to locate useful details. Nonetheless, we were unable to find any conservation psychology projects or information regarding the tactics/strategies/approaches in the past that failed to motivate people.

Finally, we searched for interviews on conservation psychology to ascertain alternate data points to help triangulate the information. The idea here was to locate interviews/press conferences involving wildlife conservationists sharing examples of tactics/strategies/approaches that have failed in the past to motivate people. For this, we explored YouTube, Forbes, Fortune, and the American Psychological Association, but the interview excerpts we came across focused solely on the work.

We also tried identifying information from sources older than the standard 24-month time frame. The idea here was to check for any mention of future projected tactics/strategies/approaches that have failed in the past to motivate people, but this strategy also proved futile.

Due to the unavailability of data, we were unable to present examples of conservation psychology or ecopsychology tactics/strategies/approaches that have failed in the past to motivate people. A probable reason for the lack of data is that the "field of psychological study of environmentally-relevant behaviors is relatively small and has not always been appreciated as having a role to play in confronting environmental threats." Also, much of the available research focused on psychology or ecopsychology tactics/strategies/approaches and their success or failure rather than on those that have failed in the past to motivate people.

Sources
Sources