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Understanding Framing and Educational Effects on Climate Action Al Shaeel, Fatema; Del Balso, Julian; Ishitani, Eri; Mann, Vanessa; Wu, Carmen 2019-04-04

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UBC Social Ecological Economic Development Studies (SEEDS) Sustainability Program Student Research Report        Understanding Framing and Educational Effects on Climate Action  Ecous: Fatema Al Shaeel, Julian Del Balso, Eri Ishitani, Vanessa Mann & Carmen Wu  University of British Columbia PSYC 321 Themes: Climate, Community April 4, 2019         Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS Sustainability Program provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student research project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore, readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Sustainability Program representative about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report”. EDUCATION AND CLIMATE ACTION                                                                              2 Executive Summary   Framing is often used to elicit particular behaviours and attitudes. This paper examines whether educational framing of environmental issues impact participants’ willingness to engage in pro-environmental behaviour. We investigated local and global framing effects. Environmental issues are often perceived as abstract concepts and psychologically distant. Participants were randomly assigned to three conditions (local vs. global vs. control). We found no significant effects from both the local and global educational framing conditions. Instead, our results indicate that the control condition with no educational blurbs and quiz had the highest response rate and elicited the most pledge responses. The results did not support our hypothesis. Our findings suggest that using framing and educational blurbs are not effective on their own to elicit pro-environmental behaviours. Previous research further explains our results, which illustrated that neither local or global framed messages raised individual concern for environmental issues strong enough to change their behaviour. We conclude that our results are reflective of an ineffective methodology for the purpose of our study.    Keywords: pro-environmental behaviour, educational blurbs, framing, psychological distance           EDUCATION AND CLIMATE ACTION                                                                              3 Introduction   Environmental degradation poses a threat to the well-being of all organisms. The complexity and size of the issue makes it difficult for individuals to feel a sense obligation. Psychological distance is a theoretical construct that refers to a subjective distance an individual perceives between the self and some entity. Previous research has found that there is a negative correlation between psychological distance and concern about environmental issues (Scannell & Gifford, 2013; Schoenefeld & McCauley, 2016; Wang et al., 2019). These findings suggest that greater psychological distance lowers willingness to engage in pro-environmental behaviours. Leiserowitz stated an effective strategy to communicate issues is to frame them through a local lense (as cited in Scannell & Gifford, 2013). A study illustrated that subjects who attended workshops about local climate change reported more awareness towards environmental impacts and an increased willingness to support climate change policies (Sheppard, 2005, as cited in Scannell & Gifford, 2013, p.64). For example, a survey conducted by Kates and Wilbanks found that despite the decreased public concern about climate change, citizens took action towards a local environmental issues (as cited in Scannell & Gifford, 2013, p.64). Conversely, other research suggests that locally and globally framed messages do not significantly contribute to public concern regarding climate change  (Devine-Wright, 2013; Scannell & Gifford, 2013). In this study, we examined whether people are more inclined to engage in pro-environmental behaviour when educated on local environmental issues, relative to when educated on global environmental issues. We recruited people who are currently residing in Vancouver and its surrounding areas. We then randomly assigned participants to read either local or global information about the negative environmental effects of styrofoam. Afterwards, we provided local and global petitions and pledges to all of our conditions and measured their willingness to support. We hypothesize that participants who read about local environmental issues would be more likely to support local petitions, and that participants who read about global environmental issues would be more likely to support global petitions.  Methods  Participants  We had 100 participants involved in our study (62 female, 35 male, 3 prefer not to say; M = 22.1 years). We recruited participants online from March 2nd to April 1st through social media platforms. Our participants had varying connections to UBC campus. Our sample included 54 participants reported being from the Lower Mainland (Vancouver and its suburbs), 10 from British Columbia, 11 from outside of British Columbia, and 25 from outside of Canada.   Conditions Participants were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: control group (n = 31), local experimental group (n = 33), and global experimental group (n = 36). The control group did not receive an educational blurb nor a quiz, they were simply exposed to local and global petitions followed by pledges. The local experimental group were presented with a locally framed educational blurb about the impacts of styrofoam (Appendix A). After the educational blurb, the participants of the local experimental group were given a quiz consisting of 5 questions to test their knowledge (Appendix C). The global experimental group were presented with a globally framed educational blurb about the impacts of styrofoam (Appendix B). After the educational blurb, the participants of the global experimental group were given a quiz consisting of 5 questions to test their knowledge (Figure 8). Both the local and global experimental groups were given the option to sign a local and global petition followed by a pledge. Our independent variable was the effect of EDUCATION AND CLIMATE ACTION                                                                              4 education framing. Our dependent variable was participant’s willingness to sign the petitions and make a pledge to change their behaviour in support of the environmental issue.  Materials Framed Educational Blurb  The local educational blurb consisted of information regarding an environmental issue about styrofoam waste taking place in and around the city of Vancouver (Appendix A). The global educational blurb consisted of information regarding an environmental issue about styrofoam waste happening in the world (Appendix B).   Quiz The quiz consists of five questions regarding the educational blurb (Appendix C & D). Participants were required to take the quiz in order to assess whether they read the educational blurb.   Demographic survey  A small survey consists of five questions. These questions were used to gain information about the participants’ age, gender, how often they attend UBC campus, if they live on campus and where they are from (Appendix G).   Measures  We asked participants if they were willing to support the petitions. A participant’s signature on the global/local petition would require a response to pledge to more sustainable action to help the global/local climate (Appendix E & F). The optional pledge was presented when participants agreed to support either a global petition, local petition or both. The pledges required the participants to engage in pro-environmental behaviour.  Procedure  The survey was conducted online and distributed via an anonymous link on social media platforms. If participants agreed to consent, they were randomly assigned to one of three conditions. The survey took approximately 5 minutes to complete. The survey for the experimental groups consisted of four parts. First, the participants were asked to read a short educational blurb on the environmental harms of styrofoam on either a local or global scale, but not both. They then were given a short quiz consisting of five questions on the material in the blurb. Feedback on the quiz was then provided to both the local and global experimental conditions. Afterwards, both experimental groups were asked to read one locally, and one globally framed petition on styrofoam waste management, those who agreed to sign were then asked to type a pledge in support. Finally, participants filled out a few demographic questions (Appendix G.) In the case of the control group, they were given both petitions and both pledges, excluding the educational blurb and quiz. An optional debriefing was available to participants who inquired.   Results  A chi-square contingency analysis showed that there was no significant relationship between the experimental conditions and petition signing. The percentage of participants signing the global petition and local petition in each condition is shown in Figure 1 and Figure 2. The condition with the highest percentage of participants agreeing to sign either of the petitions was the control condition. Exactly 70% of the control condition participants signed the globally framed petition and 87% control condition participants signed the locally framed petition. Table 1 and Table 2 show the observed frequency of petition signing in the EDUCATION AND CLIMATE ACTION                                                                              5 globally and locally framed petitions. There was a slightly higher observed petition support for the global petition within the global condition. Similarly, in the local condition there was a higher observed petition support for the local petition. However, chi-square analysis showed that there was no significant relationship between experimental conditions and globally framed petition signing frequency, χ2 (2, n = 100) = 0.728, p = .695. Chi-square analysis also showed that there was no significant relationship between experimental conditions and locally framed petition signing frequency χ2 (2, n = 100) = 4.824, p = .090. We used an alpha level of .05 for all statistical tests.  A review of the pledge responses recorded in our study revealed that some of the actions that participants would take to reduce their impact on the environment included: decreasing usage of single-use items, taking public transit or carpooling, and changing to a plant-based diet.  The average quiz score of participants in the global and local frame conditions were very similar. The average score of participants in the global condition was 3.25 (SD = 1.05) and the average score of participants in the local condition was 3.30 (SD = 1.26). The most common score in the global condition was 3 out of 5, and the most common score in the local condition was 4 out of 5.   Discussion  The purpose of our study was to determine whether educational framing with local narratives would influence participants’ pro-environmental behaviour more when compared to the global framing group and control. The results of our study did not support our hypothesis. Our findings suggest that educational framing is not an effective tool for motivating pro-environmental behaviours when applied in settings like our survey. Our control condition was the most effective at eliciting pro-environmental behaviour, which has important implications for our study. We found no significant effects from global or local educational framing conditions. Instead, our results show that the control condition with no educational messages had the highest response rate and elicited the most pledge responses. We attribute this to the pledge being time consuming for the participants, as they were required to pledge two different pro-environmental behaviours in order to sign both petitions they were given. Because of this we suspect that the control condition participants were more likely to sign the petition and fill out the pledge because they weren’t required to take an educational quiz. The quiz would have made their survey more time consuming and would have taken longer to get to the pledge section. Since the control condition did not have a quiz, it left them more time to come up with answers to the pledge. We also observed that participants’ pledge responses were often of items and actions that had minimal impact on their current lifestyle and/or behaviours that they might already partake in, such as reducing their usage of single-use items or taking public transit. These are responses that require minimal effort to think of and pledge. Our results suggest that time and convenience was the most important factor in people filling out the pledge. Considering our results with the control condition, it seems that convenience and ease of compliance are what should be focused on when tackling climate change. Our results suggest that people are eager to help and hold largely pro-environmental views (as at least 50% of participants did sign the petition), but struggle with sacrifice or the extra burden that comes from personal sustainable behaviour. This can be seen through the UBC implemented garbage sorting stations in every building around campus; these stations help promote pro-environmental behaviours by eliciting/helping students to recycle and compost, without the disproportionate effort that would be required of a student to do that on their own without an initiative from UBC.  EDUCATION AND CLIMATE ACTION                                                                              6 Framing has had mixed research in the past, although studies have suggested that framing is most effective when the wording is strong and delivery is robust and repeated (Goldschmied et al., 2017). Framing in situations where something is phrased differently for a short time or only once or twice seem to have had the most trouble being replicated according to meta analysis on framing (Goldschmied et al., 2017). These results are consistent with our findings that framing is ineffective at influencing behaviour in the short-term. Future studies may require long-term educational framing messages to accurately assess the effectiveness of framing. However, other factors, such as the use of voice or video could have a greater impact. If in the future framing is something deemed worth exploring, the use of compelling videos or audio may have more of an effect. Framing might work better in a long-term study with repeated exposure to framed messages. Education might also have more success with repeated exposure and with more authority, such as being taught in a school curriculum. Both of these ideas face additional issues, as framing studies have usually been based around neutral events such as car crashes or hockey hits. We think that if future studies were to be conducted they should be focus on primary school-aged children. A future study with a larger and more general population might have significant results. Furthermore, our educational blurb was focused on the negative effects of styrofoam waste. Research has shown that people were more likely to exhibit pro-environmental behaviour after exposure to gain framed messages relative to loss-framed messages (Spence & Pidgeon, 2010). It is possible that gain-loss framing is more effective than local-global framing. It would be interesting to compare results of gain-loss framing to local-global framing, and also see the effect of using both types of framing concurrently. We should have included more specific demographic questions regarding place of residence. Residence data might have played a role in the effects of local-global framing. Additionally, there might be possible effects of place attachment on effects of local framing. Participants in our control condition were not required to take a neutral quiz, which led to these participants finishing our survey quicker and thus had more time to sign and fill out the pledge sections. A future study where survey length is controlled may show more significant results with local vs. global educational framing interventions. Despite the presence of the educational blurb, the low scores on the quizzes are indicative of the lack of attention from participants. Future studies using visual aids (e.g. videos, posters) may be more effective in capturing participants’ attention.   Recommendations for UBC  We recommend to our client that efforts focused on local-global framing effects be directed elsewhere. We do not believe local-global framing to be an effective tool in the fight against climate change for an institution with the size and scope of UBC. Our results show that students care about the environment and want to be sustainable, but need help from institutions in order to make the burden of being sustainable reasonable. Because of this we believe that even if it slightly inconveniences students, the university can enact many green policies that will have high effectiveness and high participation rates, without much backlash. We recommend that UBC also reconsider the type of education they use as a tool to encourage pro-environmental behaviours. Students are already quite knowledgeable on the environment and education might have a minimal effect. We believe that local-global framing and loss framing are not ideal for promoting pro-environmental behaviour. Instead, the use of gain framing may have a larger impact. The biggest takeaway from our study is that it must be as easy as possible for individuals to engage in pro-environmental behaviour, and that ease of compliance is the single biggest determinant in exhibiting pro-environmental EDUCATION AND CLIMATE ACTION                                                                              7 behaviour. To encourage this UBC should spearhead change that students can follow with little to no changes to their current lifestyle.  EDUCATION AND CLIMATE ACTION                                                                              8 References  Devine-Wright, P. (2013). Think global, act local? The relevance of place attachments and place identities in a climate changed world. Global Environmental Change, 23,61-69.  Goldschmied, N., Sheptock, M., Kim, K., & Galily, Y. (2017). Appraising Loftus and Palmer (1974) post-event information versus concurrent commentary in the context of sport. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 70(11), 2347–2356. https://doi.org/10.1080/17470218.2016.1237980  Scannell, L. & Gifford, R. (2013). Personally relevant climate change: The role of place attachment and local versus global message framing in engagement. Environment and Behaviour, 45(1), 60-85.  Schoenefeld, J. J. & McCauley, M. R. (2016). Local is not always better: the impact of climate information on values, behaviour and policy support. Journal of Environmental Study Science, 6, 724-732.  Spence, A. & Pidgeon, N. (2010). Framing and communicating climate change: The effects of distance and outcome frame manipulations. Global Environmental Change, 20(4), 656-667.   Wang, S., Hurlstone, M. J., Leviston, Z., Walker, I., & Lawrence, C. (2019). Climate change from a distance: An analysis of construal level and psychological distance from climate change. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 1-22.    EDUCATION AND CLIMATE ACTION                                                                              9 Appendix   Figure 1: Percentage of participants in each of the condition that sign the globally framed petition (global condition n = 36, local condition n = 33, control condition n = 31).    Figure 2: Percentage of participants in each of the condition that sign the locally framed petition (global condition n = 36, local condition n = 33, control condition n = 31).    50%55%60%65%70%75%Global Local ControlPercentages of participants signing the global peitionConditions50%55%60%65%70%75%80%85%90%Global Local ControlPercentage of participants signing the local petitionConditionsEDUCATION AND CLIMATE ACTION                                                                              10   Figure 3: Score of participants in the global condition (n = 36).   Figure 4: Score of participants in the local condition (n = 33).     EDUCATION AND CLIMATE ACTION                                                                              11 Table 1: Observed number of participants supporting the globally framed petition. Percentage of participants signing in each condition in square brackets. Experimental Condition Petition signing Row Total χ2 df p-value Yes No 0.728 2 .695 Global 23 [64%] 13 [36%] 36 Local 19 [58%] 14 [42%] 33 Control 21 [70%] 10 [30%] 31 Column Total 63 37 100  Table 2: Observed number of participants supporting the locally framed petition. Expected frequency found in parentheses, percentage of participants signing in each condition in square brackets. Experimental Condition Petition signing Row Total χ2 df p-value Yes No 4.824 2 .090 Global 23 [64%] 13 [36%] 36 Local 23 [70%] 10 [30%] 33 Control 27 [87%] 4 [13%] 31 Column Total 73 27 100        EDUCATION AND CLIMATE ACTION                                                                              12 APPENDIX A: Locally Framed Educational Blurb   APPENDIX B: Globally Framed Educational Blurb                          EDUCATION AND CLIMATE ACTION                                                                              13 APPENDIX C: Locally Framed Quiz               EDUCATION AND CLIMATE ACTION                                                                              14 APPENDIX D: Globally Framed Quiz                      EDUCATION AND CLIMATE ACTION                                                                              15 APPENDIX E: Local Petition/Pledge            EDUCATION AND CLIMATE ACTION                                                                              16 APPENDIX F: Global Petition/Pledge                    EDUCATION AND CLIMATE ACTION                                                                              17 APPENDIX G: Demographic Survey Questions             

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