Date of Award

12-2012

Level of Access

Campus-Only Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Interdisciplinary Program

Advisor

Linda Silka

Second Committee Member

Mario F. Teisl

Third Committee Member

Shannon McCoy

Abstract

Acknowledging and understanding the role that information processing may play in affecting individual environmental behavior is a key step in improving the effectiveness of policy initiatives. There is recognition that a gap exists between knowledge of environmental issues and subsequent behavior, however the role of information as a preliminary step in changing behavior must not be discounted. The sustainability issues currently faced transcend region, place and generations. To this end, one cannot directly sense these enormous issues and instead must rely on scientific information, and those who generate it, to provide salient, credible, legitimate and actionable sources to guide future choices.

Increasingly there is recognition that the use of information may not be stable across individuals. The three analyses contained herein employed data from multiple primary sources in an effort to examine the factors that may influence assessment of sustainable science information. The first develops a framework for understanding the role that perception of information providers may have on one’s assessment of sustainability science information. Self-concepts or mental models may filter information, thus I specifically examine how environmental worldviews may be used as common ground, or perceived as a barrier, in engagement between scientists and stakeholders. The second study focuses on a popular metric for measuring environmental worldviews, the New Ecological Paradigm (NEP). Given the differences in processing and actions across individuals with varying NEP levels it is important to accurately and reliably measure the underlying constructs associated with environmental worldviews; the focus of study two. Finally, the third study investigates the opportunity to activate self-concepts in processing information. This third study investigates whether motivation for environmental actions may act as a filter of received information; in the past motivation has been under-utilized in the environmental behavior literature. This opens a line of research investigating other behavioral differences due to motivation.

The results of these studies have policy ramifications for environmental knowledge initiatives that do not consider the complexity of information processing. Citizens with differing perception profiles do react to environmental information differently, making it increasingly important to provide information that is perceived as salient, legitimate, credible and actionable.

Comments

Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Economic Psychology.

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