Social Influence

A. Kause (chair); M. Bergquist; K. Steentjes; I.G.M. Richter. Location: A3

When do I do what others do? Social information, factual knowledge, and their impact on pro-environmental behaviour

A. Kause, W. Gaissmaier, & M. Galesic

Climate change is an acknowledged politically, economically and socially pressing issue – but people’s behavior is clearly still not guided by this knowledge. Social norms have been demonstrated as a powerful means for changing behavior, in particular descriptive social norms that indicate what the majority of people does. We investigate how providing transparent social information, that is, population frequencies of two daily behaviors, influences norms and behavioral change, compared to factual information about environmental consequences of these behaviors. In three waves of a panel study we assessed (i) people’s own behaviors and their estimates of frequencies of these behaviors in the population (ii) gave feedback about true frequencies of these behaviors as well as factual information and (iii) explored how norms, intentions, and behaviors change. We find that overall, both social and factual information led to changes in behavior, but that the impact of social information differed depending on own previous behavior. When it comes to factual information, high environmental attitudes predicted behavioral change. In light of our results, I will discuss how our social distributions of behaviors compare to norms as defined in previous research and how and when they might serve as a motivator for more climate-friendly behavior.

Minding the gap: Influence of distance between own behavior and social norms on energy conservation intentions

M. Bergquist & A. Nilsson

Two studies examined if influence of social norms are affected by distances between one’s own behavior and others behavior (norm distance). In the first experiment, including norm distance, feedback unit (kwh, SEK) and perceived importance, hypotheses were derived based on social comparison theory. Results from experiment 1 (n = 104) showed that distal norm distance elicited greatest energy conservation intentions in the norm alignment (i.e. congruent descriptive and injunctive norms) condition. Feedback unit did not affect the influence of norm distance; however, an interaction was found, suggesting that the influence of feedback unit on energy conservation intentions interacts with perceived importance of energy conservation. Finally, importance of energy conservation intentions showed a main effect of energy conservation intentions. Experiment 2 (n = 122) showed that the influence of aligned norm distance on energy conservation intentions followed a positive linear trend. Although influenced by unpredicted gender interactions, experiment 2 supported that norm distance and frequency of descriptive norms are separate processes, and replicated the main effect of importance of energy conservation. Taken together, these results suggest an effect of norm distance in normative influence. This effect seems to be better explained by heuristic processing rather than social comparison processes.

Changing norms through interpersonal activism? How people perceive interpersonal confrontation of environmental disregard

K. Steentjes, T. Kurz, & M. Barreto

We examined interpersonal confrontation in an attempt to understand social processes involved in changing or maintaining social norms associated with environmental issues. Across three studies participants were presented with somebody expressing environmental disregard in relation to climate change or someone not reacting to this position (confrontation vs. no confrontation). The confrontation situation was constructed using a written scenario (study1), a confrontation by a confederate (study2), or a chatroom conversation (study 3). Results of study 1 identified high social costs associated with confronting environmental disregard.  Studies 2 & 3 showed that this effect was moderated by observers’ pre-existing climate change attitudes. Attitudes were assessed using a qualitative measure (study 2) or a quantitative method across two time points (study 3). Participants evaluated the observed confrontation by amplifying the direction of their pre-existing attitudes. For example participants with strong climate change concerns evaluated the confronter more favourably than the person not confronting. Concerned participants also evaluated the confrontation as indicative of strong environmental norms while less concerned participants evaluated the same confrontation as demonstrating weak environmental norms. Our findings are discussed in terms of the possible implications for attempts to foster social action on climate change on an interpersonal level.

Changing oceans – changing fish consumption. A psychological approach towards sustainable seafood consumption as a way of combatting overfishing

I. Richter, C. A. Klöckner, & M. Mehmetoglu

Consumption of seafood drives the oceans to complete exploitation. Thus, besides changes on industrial and governmental levels, it is also the consumer’s responsibility to shift consumption patterns. A challenge in addressing seafood consumption is the fuzziness of its concepts. Therefore, this presentation introduces a definition of sustainable fish consumption (SFC) from a consumer perspective based on a broad literature review and in collaboration with marine scientists. Subsequently, potential predictors of SFC are analyzed, including variables covering the three subcategories proposed in Thøgersen’s (1995) Motivation-Opportunity-Ability Model. The opportunity part comprises socioeconomic characteristics, living conditions and product characteristics like availability, visibility, price and labelling. The motivational part comprises common psychological variables like intentions, attitudes and norms and finally the availability part incorporates habits and knowledge about the target behavior. The predictive value of each variable is discussed and inter-variable relationships are suggested using the Norm Activation Theory (Schwartz & Howard, 1981), the Theory of Planned Behavior (Ajzen, 1991) and the Comprehensive Action Determination Model (Klöckner, 2013) as main orientation. As a synthesis a comprehensive model for SFC is presented - a basis for a national campaign fostering sustainable fish consumption in cooperation with the World Wildlife Fund Norway.