Date of Award

1-1-1995

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Psychology

School

School of Psychology

Faculty

Faculty of Health and Human Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Adele Hills

Abstract

Education campaigns conducted by water management agencies are intended to motivate people to conserve water. However, there has been little research to determine what kind of information best achieves this goal. Four types of information partly based on Stem, Dietz and Kalof's (1993) social-psychological model of environmental value orientations were examined in this study: action information about ways to conserve water; abstract factual information about water and its use; anthropocentric information about how people are affected by water use; and ecocentric information about how the environment is affected by water use. Using cluster sampling techniques 160 participants were selected from four Perth suburbs (two upper-middle income suburbs, and two lower-middle income suburbs). Brochures containing the four different types of information (all including action information) were randomly distributed to participants who were then asked to rate the perceived importance of each information item. Three weeks after distribution participants were assessed on their memory of the information, and on their self-reported water conservation behaviours. There was an interaction of information with income on importance ratings, with the lower-middle income group rating ecocentric information as relatively important, while the upper-middle income group rated it as relatively unimportant. There was a main effect for memory, with post hoc tests indicating that abstract information was remembered significantly better than anthropocentric information. In addition to having higher memory scores, people receiving abstract information reported the most behaviour change. However, post hoc tests revealed that this was significantly different only from ecocentric information, for which people reported the least behaviour change. The relative effectiveness of the abstract information may be explained by the simple and novel nature of many of the items. The failure of ecocentric information to lead to behaviour change appears inconsistent with previous findings that suggest environmental concern motivates conservation behaviour. This failure was not surprising in the upper middle income group which found the information relatively unimportant. For people in the lower-middle income group it is possible that a) they feel helpless in the face of environmental problems, or b) their perceived importance ratings were based on symbolic attitudes which have little influence on behaviour when self-interests also prevail.

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