Individual Factors

A. Sundermann (chair); J. Wiefek (chair); G.O. Thomas (I-064); K. Keizer. Location: A3

Predictors for Motivation to Engage in Sustainable Development: The Role of Understanding, Beliefs and Tolerance for Ambiguity

A. Sundermann

The Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development highlights the crucial role of education in changing the way we think and act. In the discourse on Higher Education for Sustainable Development (HESD), affective features such as values, attitudes and in particular motivation have received growing attention recently. A mixed-method study analyses these affective learning outcomes and their interplay with changes in students’ conceptual understandings of sustainable development. The study is undertaken in an innovative study model which is to one third dedicated to sustainability issues. First results show that motivation to engage in sustainable development decreases after the first semester. We hypothesized that perceived complexity and ambiguity of sustainability issues could lead to amotivation within students. This paper reports the influence of understanding of sustainable development, tolerance for ambiguity and epistemological beliefs regarding sustainability on self-reported motivation. A sample of 639 students in their second semester completed questionnaires assessing the variables of interest. Multiple Regression Analysis indicates that avoidance for ambiguity and perceived complexity are significantly negatively related with motivation, whereas sophisticated epistemological beliefs about sustainability are positively related. Most surprisingly socio-cultural aspects of understanding explained the highest proportion of variance in motivation scores. Implications for curriculum design and HESD will be discussed.

From the niche to the mainstream: Factors, dynamics and patterns influencing the diffusion of sustainable practices

J. Wiefek, J. Kny, & B. Sommer

As part of an interdisciplinary research project, we showed by socio-historical reconstructions how niche activities can become mainstream. Based on a literature review, we reconstructed the diffusion paths of seven "good examples" of sustainable practices that have successfully been mainstreamed (bicycle use, travelling by train, car sharing, buying organic food, purchasing green electricity, public libraries & community gardening). We found common characteristics to all cases as well as differences between them regarding factors, dynamics and patterns determining their diffusion. One factor regards the motives of actors. It was impossible to make generalisations about the underlying motivations, as different motives can result in the same sustainable practices (e.g. demanding quality or convenience, ethical or health-related reasons, financial issues). These findings have an impact on considerations on how to motivate people to act sustainably as well as on the quality of the practices. Our results support the idea that people do not necessarily need to have in mind to act sustainably to do so, and that other factors like surrounding conditions and infrastructures can support environmental friendly behaviour. However, there is also the risk of rebound-effects when “originally” sustainable practices are just provided or consumed for instance for economic reasons.

Identifying the cognitive and behavioural connections between pro-environmental behaviours: Results from a mixed-methods approach

G.O. Thomas, N. Nash, W. Poortinga, & L. Whitmarsh

With numerous pro-environmental behaviours that people can undertake, and the need to encourage behaviour changes, policy makers have an interest in ensuring that interventions effectively target and encourage appropriate behaviours. Identifying patterns in how people conceptualise and enact pro-environmental behaviours could allow interventions to target clusters of behaviours for maximum effectiveness. These behavioural clusters may also be candidates for ‘spillover’ effects, where taking up a new behaviour leads to other behavioural changes. To investigate these relationships, two research projects with different epistemological approaches were used to explore behavioural clustering. The first method used a qualitative card-sorting task to explore conceptual links between 32 pro-environmental behaviours (n = 14). The second approach re-analysed data from a nationally-representative survey of Wales, UK, (n= 1,583) which measured 60 different pro-environmental behaviours. Results show a convergence between methods that highlighted the presence of three groupings of pro-environmental behaviours; large-scale efficiency investments, frequent resource-efficiency and green consumption behaviours, and transport-related choices. Analysis also indicated a range of behavioural correlations from the quantitative analysis, and an additional factor of political/collective actions in the qualitative work. Results are discussed in light of conceptual links between pro-environmental behaviours, and potential influences for behavioural spillover intervention designs.

Hedonic desires and pro-environmental behavior. Are hedonic goal frames sticky?

K. Keizer

Engaging in pro-environmental behavior like engaging in most normative behavior implies incurring some cost to do the appropriate. In general it takes time, effort or some discomfort. Therefore it is suggested that the likelihood of someone acting pro-environmental is reduced when they are more hedonically focused in a given situation. This would imply that in increase in the desire for e.g, food or cigarette is accompanied by a decrease in our willingness to act pro-environmental or normative in general. In this talk I discuss research that further investigates this relationship. The research first focuses on the question whether an increased longing for a cigarette is accompanied by a reduced intention of smokers to act normative. Secondly, it investigates how sticky the hedonic goal frame is. Does our willingness to engage in normative behavior increase upon fulfillment of our hedonic desire or does the hedonic focus persist. To answer this question, smokers before and after smoking a cigarette were compared on their likelihood of acting normative. Results suggest a strong relationship between the hedonic goal frame and our likelihood of engaging in pro-environmental or normative behavior, but also indicate a lack signal a lack of stickiness of such a hedonic frame.