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The Role of (Human) Nature on Environmental Action Michelle Verges Indiana University, South Bend [email protected]

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Invited talk on current research investigating factors that influence pro-environmental behaviors and attitudes. Talk presented at Indiana University, South Bend, Nov. 2008.


  • 1. The Role of (Human) Nature on Environmental Action Michelle Verges Indiana University, South Bend [email_address]

2. I Couldnt Have Done it Without You

  • Dean Lynn Williams
  • Department of Psychology, IUSB
  • Sara Unsworth, San Diego State University
  • Sean Duffy, Rutgers University
  • Thats right - You!

3. The Bag Lady 4. 5. 6. APS (May, 2007) 7. Is there a relationship between environmental attitudes and sustainable behaviors? 8. Think of nature 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. Connection to Nature

  • Like bears, humans are part of nature.
  • We evolved and have spent 99% of human history as hunter gatherers in natural environments
  • It would be surprising if humans were not intimately connected to nature
  • But what does it mean to be connected to nature?

14. Connection to Nature

  • One school of thought: Connection to nature mediates pro-environmental behavior and action (Schultz, Mayer & Franz)
  • Developed an implicit association task (IAT) that measures connection with nature.
  • IAT measures implicit attitudes those that one cannot (or choose not) to verbalize.
  • For instance, do you believe that men make better doctors and women make better secretaries?

15. WomenMenOn the next several slides you will see typical male and female names. If the name is female, tap your left hand on the desk. If the name is male, tap your right hand on the desk . 16. WomenMenJohn 17. WomenMenRobert 18. WomenMenJane 19. WomenMenMichael 20. WomenMenJennifer 21. WomenMenMary 22. WomenMenKaren 23. WomenMenBill 24. WomenMenThomas 25. WomenMenKate 26. CareerFamilyOn the next several slides you will see typical career and family roles. If the word is career, tap your left hand on the desk. If the word is home, tap your right hand on the desk. 27. CareerFamilymanagement 28. CareerFamilyrelatives 29. CareerFamilyprofessional 30. CareerFamilycorporation 31. CareerFamilymarriage 32. CareerFamilychildren 33. CareerFamilycareer 34. CareerFamilyparents 35. CareerFamilysalary 36. CareerFamilyhome 37. CareerFamilyoffice 38. CareerFamilybusiness 39. CareerFamilyfamily 40. CareerFamilywedding 41. Block A 42. Career or MaleFamilyor FemaleOn the next several slides you will see typical career and family roles, as well as names. Please categorize as you did before. 43. Career or Malemanagement Familyor Female 44. Career or Malechildren Familyor Female 45. Career or MaleJohnFamilyor Female 46. Career or MaleMichaelFamilyor Female 47. Career or MalerelativesFamilyor Female 48. Career or Maleoffice Familyor Female 49. Career or MaleKarenFamilyor Female 50. Career or Malecorporation Familyor Female 51. Career or Malemarriage Familyor Female 52. Career or MaleMaryFamilyor Female 53. Career or Maleparents Familyor Female 54. Career or Malecareer Familyor Female 55. Career or MaleJennifer Familyor Female 56. Career or Malesalary Familyor Female 57. Career or Maleprofessional Familyor Female 58. Career or Malebusiness Familyor Female 59. Career or MaleBill Familyor Female 60. Career or Malefamily Familyor Female 61. Career or MaleJane Familyor Female 62. Career or Malehome Familyor Female 63. Career or MaleRobert Familyor Female 64. Career or MaleKate Familyor Female 65. Career or Malewedding Familyor Female 66. Career or MaleThomas Familyor Female 67. Block B 68. Career or FemaleFamilyor MaleOn the next several slides you will see typical career and family roles, as well as names. Please categorize as you did before 69. Career or Femalemanagement Familyor Male 70. Career or Femalechildren Familyor Male 71. Career or FemaleJohn Familyor Male 72. Career or FemaleMichael Familyor Male 73. Career or Femalerelatives Familyor Male 74. Career or Femaleoffice Familyor Male 75. Career or FemaleKaren Familyor Male 76. Career or Femalecorporation Familyor Male 77. Career or Femalemarriage Familyor Male 78. Career or FemaleMary Familyor Male 79. Career or Femaleparents Familyor Male 80. Career or Femalecareer Familyor Male 81. Career or FemaleJenniferFamilyor Male 82. Career or Femalesalary Familyor Male 83. Career or Femaleprofessional Familyor Male 84. Career or Femalebusiness Familyor Male 85. Career or FemaleBill Familyor Male 86. Career or Femalefamily Familyor Male 87. Career or FemaleJane Familyor Male 88. Career or Femalehome Familyor Male 89. Career or FemaleRobert Familyor Male 90. Career or FemaleKate Familyor Male 91. Career or Femalewedding Familyor Male 92. Career or FemaleThomas Familyor Male 93. Which was easier?

  • Block A or Block B?
  • For most people even those who say they believe in equal working rights, block A is easier than Block B.

94. Implicit connection to nature

  • Schultz et al. (2004) developed a connection to nature IAT
  • Relative speed of categorizing SELF (I, me my, mine, myself) and NOT ME (it, they, them, their, other) with NATURE and BUILT words
  • Found people overwhelmingly connected to nature

95. 96. 97. 98.

  • If people have a primitive belief that favors nature over the built environment, then stimulus valence should have no effect on peoples implicit connections to nature.
  • We hypothesized, however, that emotional connotations derived from words influence peoples connection to nature.

Connection to Nature IAT 99.

  • Original Items
  • NATURE: animals, birds, plants, whales, trees
  • BUILT: building, car, city, factory, street
  • New Test Items
  • NATURE: beach, dove, fish, flower, river;bees, fungus, manure, snake, thorn
  • BUILT: bed, clothing, house, toy, trophy;bullet, cellar, coffin, needle, tomb

Undergraduates from Rutgers University participated in one of three IAT experiments:1 - Connection to nature IAT using original stimulus items 2 - IAT using positive nature and negative built items 3 - IAT using negative nature and positive built items 100. Results (Verges & Duffy, in press,Environment and Behavior ) -200 -150 -100 -50 0 50 100 150 200 Standard Nature IAT Positive Nature IAT Negative Nature IAT Strongerconnection to nature Strongerconnection to built 101.

  • Methodological point: Able to replicate prior findings regarding peoples implicit connections with nature
  • Extended those findings to reveal a tendency to implicitly associate oneself to positive aspects of the built and natural environments
  • Contextual information may be a factor when considering peoples association with nature

102. Oh, the weather outside is frightful!

  • If valence moderates implicit connection with nature, might emotional associations of nature influence connectedness as well?
  • In temperate climates, it is COLD during the winter, and mild during autumn and spring.
  • Spring is known for its pastel of flowers, autumn for its golden leaves, winter for its grayish browns?

103. Oh, the weather outside is frightful!

  • People spend time in nature during spring and autumn, but less so in winter.
  • In winter people are protected from nature by coats that try to keep nature at bay.
  • Might there be seasonal and meteorological variations regarding connection to nature?
  • To test this, we ran the Schultz et al. (2004) from October to April, keeping track of weather and precipitation.

104. Strongerconnectionwith nature Strongerconnectionwith built (Duffy & Verges, under review,Journal ofEnvironmental Psychology ) 105. Strongerconnectionwith nature Strongerconnectionwith built (Duffy & Verges, under review,Journal ofEnvironmental Psychology ) 106.

  • Stronger evidence for contextual factors and connectedness with nature
  • In laymans terms, people seem to be fair-weather friends regarding their association with nature
  • Findings bear implications regarding current views on connectedness with nature. But do these findings have anything to say about conservation behaviors?

107. Without bribing, forcing, telling, or relying on spurious emotions,how can we reliably improve pro-environmental behaviors? 108. Started noticing a pattern... 109. Started noticing a pattern... 110. Control condition Experimental condition 111. 112. 113. Results (Duffy & Verges, in press,Environment and Behavior ) 114. Results 115.

  • The design of the environment profoundly shapes behavior
  • Not just limited to recycling...we can design environments that may afford myriad behaviors (i.e., streets that afford not getting lost, buildings that afford efficient work...)
  • It is hard to change peoples attitudes or beliefs, but one can tacitly affect behavior by building better environments.

116. Thank You!