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Title: The anatomy of an environmental decision : the case of recycling
Author: McNamara, Diana L.
ISNI:       0000 0004 5370 7093
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2015
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The human race has always faced environmental challenges. What differs at present, however, are the scale and entrenched social structures (e.g., capitalism, man/nature duality, a dominant social paradigm) that are contributing to these problems and our own irrationality when it comes to possible solutions. Implicit testing methodologies, borrowed from experimental psychology, may be able to bypass some of these issues and provide a means to identify simple 'point of decision' interventions to effect change in behavior on an individual level. The approach adopted in the current thesis was to explore the extent to which movement dynamics (measured using MouseTracker) can inform the decisional anatomy of an important pro-environmental activity — recycling. MouseTracker is a useful methodology as it assesses the real-time conflict that people experience when confronted with the decision to recycle a particular item or not. There were three stages to the progression of this research: (1) using focus groups to gain knowledge of undergraduates' beliefs and opinions towards recycling (Study 1); (2) assessing the utility of MouseTracker as an implicit tool to explore recycling decisions (Expts. 1 & 2); and (3) establishing the extent to which personal (i.e, Social Value Orientation) and situational factors (i.e., environmental primes) influence the anatomy of recycling decisions (Expts. 3-6). Results from the focus groups confirmed that university undergraduates hold widely held societal beliefs about recycling, thereby justifying their inclusion in the current investigation. Experiments 1 and 2 confirmed the utility of MouseTracker as a methodology to explore recycling decisions. Overall, participants displayed a stronger attraction to putting recyclable items in the rubbish bin than garbage in the recycle bin, a tendency that was reduced with increasing levels of environmental concern. Results in the subsequent experiments were mixed. An important individual difference variable (i.e., Social Value Orientation) failed to show an influence on recycling behavior (Expt. 3), and subtle environmental primes produced a collection of modest effects (Expts. 4 & 5). Most notably, a messy environment improved recycling performance (Expt. 5). Compelling results were observed, however, when self-directed attention was manipulated (Expt. 6). In particular, recycling performance was enhanced in the presence of a mirror, thereby confirming the relation between self-focus and normative behavior (the efficient disposal of waste). Discussion centers on the theoretical and practical implications of the current findings, limitations with the methodology employed, and consideration is given to future research on this important societal topic.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Recycling (Waste, etc.)