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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Attitudes toward resource conservation and conservation behaviour: the moderating role of self-interest and social values Lavallee, Loraine


People's tendency to deplete shared natural resources has been well documented (Edney, 1979; Hardin, 1968). At the same time, however, people are generally in favour of resource conservation. A possible explanation for the observed inconsistency between attitudes toward resource conservation and conservation behaviour is that people do not hold their attitudes with conviction(Abelson, 1988). Attitudes held with conviction, or important attitudes, are attitudes related to important goals or values in the self-concept (Kronsnick, 1990). In the present study, the attitude object -- resource conservation -- was experimentally linked to participants' important values to investigate whether attitude importance, conservation behaviour, and attitude-behaviour correspondence would be enhanced. Eighty-four subjects, pretested on the positivity of their attitudes toward resource conservation and the relative importance of personal versus social values, were selected for the study. Participating in groups of 3 to 6, subjects read an experimental message that either described the societal or personal outcomes of resource depletion. For half of the participants the message linked the issue to their more important value, for the other half the message linked the issue to a lessimportant value. After reading the message, the positivity and importance of subjects' attitudes were measured. Then subjects completed a replenishable resource task that manipulated the costs (low or high) of conserving a shared resource and served as the measure of conservation behaviour. The predicted effects were not found: linking attitudes to more important as compared to less important values did not increase attitude importance,conservation behaviour or attitude-behaviour consistency. Additional analyses, which included pretest attitude positivity, however, demonstrated that when conservation behaviour was costly to perform, subjects with more positive attitudes toward resource conservation were more likely than people with less positive attitudes to conserve the resource. When the correlations between pretest attitude positivity and conservation behaviour were examined, the correspondence between attitudes and behaviour was found to be strong only when behaviour was costly to perform and when subjects were made aware of the personal rather than the societal outcomes of resource depletion. These results suggest that both positive attitudes and awareness of the potential personal outcomes of conservation are needed to motivate people to conserve a shared resource.

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