Immediate Effects of Exposure to Positive and Negative Environmental
Sponsored by Missouri Western State University Sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation DUE-97-51113
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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
TRANT, J. T. (2004). Immediate Effects of Exposure to Positive and Negative Environmental. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 7. Available online at Retrieved April 20, 2014 .

Immediate Effects of Exposure to Positive and Negative Environmental

Sponsored by: ELIZABETH HAMMER (
Abstract This experiment was designed to test the persuasive affects of different essays on a person’s immediate reaction to questions concerning their environmental attitudes. The study consisted of three groups; the control group, who were given and essay on procrastination, the pro-environmental group, who were given an essay on environmental responsibilities, and the anti-environment group, who were given an essay on the loss of jobs in the lumber industry due to environmental regulations. The results collected from the sixty participants yielded that there was no significance difference between the control group and the pro-environmental group concerning environmental attitudes, while participants exposed to the anti-environmental essay tended to show lower sympathy towards the environment. These results were not successful in providing sufficient support for the research hypothesis.

Immediate Effects of Exposure to Positive and Negative Environmental Writings On Personal Environmental Views Our environment provides the air we breath, the water we drink, and the food we eat; it is essential to the survival of mankind as well as all other life on earth. Not only does the environment provide the essentials for sustaining life, but it also offers the materials man has used and continues to use to build civilizations and make life more comfortable for all of us. A significant level of respect and appreciation is owed to the environment and as the dominant species on earth it is our responsibility to show this respect and appreciation. Beginning with the earliest civilizations man has used the resources of the land to thrive and prosper. These early cultures recognized the importance of the natural world and treated it accordingly. As civilizations grew and the human population increased so did the need to extract more of the earth’s resource to provide for the greater number of people. As civilizations grew and the human population increased so did the need to extract more of the earth’s resources. Environmental attitudes began to evolve and slowly move away from respect and appreciation of its importance towards a desire to dominate over it. These evolving trends in attitude spread at an alarming rate and to a much larger population during the industrial revolutions. These landmark advances in machinery and technology instilled in man the belief that the resources of the environment were theirs to be used in whatever way and to whatever extent they saw fit. The extraction and removal of environmental resources in the world today is being preformed in such a way and to such an extent that the environment is not able to restore the damage that is being done. The industrial practices of today are advantageous in that they result in higher living standards and more convenient ways to do everyday activities, but the environmental impacts that result are accepted as a reasonable side effect (Kaiser, Doka, Hofstetter, & Ranney, 2003). It is mankind’s responsibility to acknowledge these problems and do their part to protect the environment they live in. The threats facing the environment due to the impact of pollution and other environmental degradations are increasingly becoming concerns of a larger percent of the population. These concerns are effectively become ingrained into the value structure of more and more people. Resulting from these environmentally centered values are environmentally focused behaviors that assist in the subsiding of threats to the environment. One of the most basic examples of these pro-environmental behaviors is the act of recycling. A study by Amy M. Mayfield examines recycling and how education and awareness affect tendencies to recycle. The study used the variables time and manipulation of signs that promoted recycling to determine if they had an effect on the frequency of recycling aluminum cans, and hypothesized that these variables would in fact increase recycling. In support of the hypothesis, the study argues that internal facilitators (Hornik, Cherian, Madansky, & Narayana, 1995) are the most important cognitive variable that influences the occurrence of recycling. These internal facilitators refer to the knowledge of what can be recycled and where it can be recycled, as well as awareness of the benefits of recycling. It is apparent that recycling offers a fairly simple way to support environmental resource-recovery, however this basic concept which is widely understood and supported, it is not widely practiced. This shows that there does exist a common knowledge about the benefits of recycling, but the knowledge rarely results in behavioral changes. The results of the study supported the hypothesis, showing an increase in recycling where the signs were located (Mayfield). The claims made by this study propose that environmental knowledge is a major factor in promoting recycling, and while the importance of recycling is widely known it is not widely practiced. To increase the occurrence of recycling, environmental education must be increased. The motivation for pro-environmental attitudes and behaviors has been a common topic for research. This research has provided a number of explanations for the formation environmental attitudes and behaviors, including external variables such as demographics and internal variables such as individual values and beliefs (Clark, Kotchen, & Moore, 2003). Another study entitled Moderating effects of social value orientation on determinants of pro-environmental behavior intention (Garling, Fujii, Garling, & Jakobson, 2003) speculated that “A structural model was estimated positing that pro-environmental behavior intentions are causally related to personal norm that in turn is causally related to ascribed responsibility and awareness of the different types of environmental consequences.” The study surveyed over five hundred car owners in Sweden on issues including reasoning behind pro-environmental behaviors, awareness of environmental consequences, personal norms, and assigned responsibility. These topics had been examined prior to this study, but what was unique to this study was that it examined them all in relation to one another. It was found that reasoning for pro-environmental behavior depends on moral obligation, ascribed responsibility, and awareness of consequences for oneself, others, and the biosphere (Garling, et al.). Glenn D. Shean and Tamara Shei (1995) show in a study conducted on student environmentalists that the personal values of responsibility and concern for the welfare of others play a large role in promoting pro-environmental attitudes and behaviors. Another influential factor in affecting one’s decision to act in a pro-environmental fashion are the details of the immediate situation and consequences (Bamberg, 2003). A study done by Guagnano, Stern, and Dietz (1995) suggests that the combinations of existing attitudes and pro-environmental influences produce stronger pro-environmental behavior, while negative environmental influences were less likely to encourage pro-environmental behavior. The above studies pertain to the factors resulting in and acting on pro-environmental attitudes and behaviors, but focusing more on the resulting behavior. What is not discussed thoroughly is the formation of attitudes and the causal relationship between attitudes and behaviors. These topics seem to be more difficult to explain fully and accurately. In attempting to understand the specifics of environmental attitudes it is important to examine all significant influences resulting in their formation, because without an accurate knowledge of the attitudes it is impossible to fully understand the reasons for the behavior. Attitudes are formed over an extended period of time, changing with the continual experience of many influential factors. What this study attempts to show are the immediate rather than the long-term effects of both positive and negative influences on environmental attitudes. This study hypothesizes that participants exposed to pro-environmental influences will have a tendency to rate their own environmental attitudes at a greater level than those exposed to anti-environmental influences.

MethodsParticipants The participants of this study will include students over the age of eighteen from Loyola University New Orleans. They will be recruited using a psychology subject pool where students have the opportunity to sing up for a number of different studies.Materials The materials of this study consist of three essays and a questionnaire pertaining to the content of the essays and environmental attitudes. The first of the three essays is pro-environmental, the second is anti-environmental, and the third is on a neutral topic not relating to the environment. Following each of these three one paged essays will be questions pertaining to the subject matter of each essay. A final set of questions will be added to the end of each content questionnaire, which will ask participants to rate their environmental attitudes.Design and Procedure The study follows an experimental design having an independent variable, a dependent variable, and use random assignment. It is an independent group design with one control group and two experimental groups. The two experimental groups will consist of the participants who will receive the pro-environmental and anti-environmental essays and the control group will consist of the participants who will receive the neutral essay. The independent variables are the three essays and the dependent variables are the participant’s responses to the questions concerning their environmental attitudes. When the participants enter the lab they will be given to consent forms to sign, one for them to keep and one to stay with the experimenter. They will then be randomly assign one of the three essays and told that the purpose of the study is to test reading comprehension and for them to read the compositions they have been given and to answer questions pertaining to its content. There will be a limit of no more that 10-15 participants allowed to take the test at one time. The participants will be spaced out to maintain privacy and they will be given an adequate amount of time to read the essays and answer the questions. After all participants are finished the researcher will collect the essays and questionnaires. When all the materials have been collected the researcher will debrief the participants, in which they will be informed about the true nature of the study and the reason why deception was necessary. During the debriefing the participants will also be reminded of the counseling services available should they have experienced any distress as a result of the study.

Results The first research hypothesis in this study predicted that the participants exposed to the “pro-environmental” essays would have a higher environmental index score than those within the control group. The mean scores of the participants failed to support this hypothesis, those exposed to the “pro-environmental” stimuli had a lower index than the control group, 30.6control > 28.3pro-environmental. The second research hypothesis stated that those participants who were exposed to the “anti-environmental” essays would have a lower score than the control group. This hypothesis was also not supported by the statistical results, however the scores did approach a significant level, p= 0.096. The means for the respective groups are as follows, 30.6control, 28.3pro-environmental and 25.8anti-environmental. There was no significant difference between any of the three groups tested. There were 15 people tested in the control group, 17 people tested in the pro-environmental group and 28 people in the anti-environmental group. Though none of the groups showed significant difference between one another, significance was found in the answers given for Question 3, “How important is the environment to you?” which had a p value of .022 when compared to question 3, concluding that people felt the environment was less important after reading the anti-environment essay.

Discussion This study was designed to test the effects of persuasion on individual’s environmental attitudes. It attempted to reveal an effect on a person’s immediate response to their environmental attitudes resulting from the subject matter of one of three essays. The study hypothesized that the participants who received the pro-environmental essay would have a greater tendency to rate their environmental attitudes at a higher level than the participants who received the anti-environmental essay. After analyzing the data it was shown that not only was there no significant support for the research hypothesis, but that the data collected from the control group revealed they had the highest self-perception of their environmental attitudes, a figure that approached significance at a higher level than the other two groups. The strange and unusual results of this study proved to be insignificant in supporting the hypothesis, however they provide an interesting insight into the nature of individual environmental attitudes. It was seen that exposure to a single essay attempting to have a persuasive effect on a person’s response to questions about their environmental attitudes was not sufficient enough to change those attitudes. This ineffectiveness of one instance of persuasion, as seen in this study, agrees with a previous study that attributes the formation and resilience of an individual’s environmental attitudes to external variables such as demographics and internal variables such as individual values and beliefs (Clark, Kotchen, & Moore, 2003). This relationship offers insight into possible explanations of why this study’s results were not significant. Another interesting relationship that also gives possible reasons for the unpredicted results comes from a study done by Bamberg (2003) where he claimed that a major factor affecting one’s decision to act in a pro-environmental fashion was due to the details of the immediate situation and consequences. While our study does include an immediate situation, it lacks any sort of consequence. These relationships between the effects of persuasion on established attitudes suggest that it might not be possible for a person to change their environmental attitudes after reading only one essay, which may or may not be contradictory to their existing attitudes. The findings of past research do not provide the only possible explanations for why this study obtained insignificant data. Other reasons could understandably come from limitations on the study. Included in these limitations are the possibility of design flaw in our essays and index. While the essays given to the participants were of correct subject matter, details such as the appeal to intellect in the pro-environmental essay differed greatly from the appeal to emotion in the anti-environmental, a factor that could have had a significant effect on the persuasiveness of the two essays. Another limitation that could have negatively effected the results of the study was the number of participants, which if higher could have provided more significant results.Overlooking its inconclusive results, this study does possess some valuable characteristics. It provides an important groundwork for other studies to build off of. By expanding the participant pool and revising the content of the essays it is quite possible for a modified study to produce significant results. Another important aspect of this study is its relationship to persuasion and personal attitudes. By focusing on this aspect of the study further research could help collect data on the effectiveness of persuasion on established attitudes, which could be beneficial to subject areas ranging from environmental psychology to marketing and advertising. While this study fail to accomplish its own goals, it opens the door for many other studies to build off its implications.

ReferencesBamberg, S. (2003). How does environmental concern influence specific environmentally relatedbehaviors? A new answer to an old question. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 23, 21-32.Clark, C. F., Kotchen, M. J., & Moore, M. R. (2003). Internal and external influences on pro-environmental behavior: Participation in a green electricity program. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 23, 237-246.Garling, T., Fujii, S., Garling, A., & Jakobsson, C. (2003). Moderating effects of social value orientation on determinants of pro-environmental behavior intention. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 23, 1-9.Guagnano, G. A., Stern, P. C., & Dietz, T. (1995). Influences on attitude-behavior relationships: A natural experiment with curbside recycling. Environment and Behavior, 27 (5), 699-718.Kaiser, F. G., Doka, G., Hofstetter, P., & Ranney, M. A. (2003). Ecological behavior and its environmental consequences: a life cycle assessment of a self-report measure. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 23, 11-20.Mayfield, A. M. (1998). The effects of education and awareness on recycling. Clearinghouse. Shean, G. D., & Shei, T. (1995). The values of student environmentalist. Journal of Psychology, 129 (5), 559-564.

Submitted 5/11/2004 10:19:27 AM
Last Edited 5/11/2004 10:25:46 AM
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