Matheus De Nardo's Graduate Defense Seminar
Matheus De Nardo, MS Candidate in Environmental Social Sciences, will present Status, Motivation, and Prosocial Behavior: Exploring Perceptions of Efficiency and Curtailment Behaviors as his Graduate Defense Seminar.
Many of the most important causes of environmental degradation are ultimately rooted in human behavior and consumption patterns. As a result, behavior change strategies that promote proenvironmental behaviors and norms possess great potential for reducing global environmental impacts. However, effectively promoting such behavior requires an understanding of how individuals perceive different proenvironmental actions. This presentation will focus on one of two studies, which explores the status associated with a variety of pro-environmental behaviors.
The status associated with proenvironmental behaviors can affect their diffusion because higher status individuals are more likely to be copied. Previous studies suggest that some proenvironmental behaviors are higher status that others. For instance, efficiency behaviors (those that use products or technology to reduce environmental impact such as solar panels or fuel-efficient cars) have been found to be associated with high status. In contrast, curtailment behaviors (behavior change to reduce environmental impact, such as taking shorter showers or riding a bike instead of driving) are associated with low status. These differences are important because the environmental benefits associated with efficiency behaviors alone may be insufficient for reaching long-term sustainability goals.
However, previous studies have only examined a small number of behaviors and have rarely considered whether perceptions differ between social groups. Here, I use mixed methods to explore whether and why a suite of proenvironmental behaviors is perceived to be high or low status, the perceived motivation for those behaviors, and whether perceptions depend on the environmental orientation of research participants. I conducted structured, interactive interviews with 71 participants (30 environmental participants and 41 business participants) to explore perceptions of 19 proenvironmental. I find that, for both participant types, efficiency is rated higher in status than curtailment and that this rating is largely based on monetary considerations. Additionally, efficiency is perceived to be more motivated by environmental concern than curtailment. Our results suggest that those who argue that curtailment will be necessary for long-term sustainability must address status perceptions as it is likely that they hinder the diffusion of such behaviors.