Framing environmental messages to correspond with values
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The successful promotion of environmentally-responsible behavior may depend on the values of the target audience, but little is known of this relationship. Framing messages promoting environmentally-responsible behavior in line with an individual's environmental values, for instance, may make it more likely the individual performs the behavior. Environmental values fall into three clusters: Egoistic concerns focus on self; social-altruistic concerns focus on others; and biospheric concerns focus on non-human living things. A key question is whether egoistic values are consistent with environmentalism. Seventy-two male and 90 female undergraduates (aged 18 to 22) completed questionnaires assessing their egoistic, altruistic, and biospheric values. Participants were assessed on engagement in environmentally-responsible behavior and on connection to nature. Levels of materialism, religiosity, economic individualism, trust, sense of control, and subjective social status were also assessed, as were the demographic variables age, gender, race, and political and religious affiliation. Participants responded to a series of messages promoting environmentally-responsible behavior framed to appeal to each of the environmental values. Three volunteer opportunities, framed to appeal to each of the environmental values, were also presented. The hypothesis was that framing messages in a manner consistent with environmental values would make the message more appealing and more likely to result in environmentally-responsible behavior. Multivariate analysis of variance revealed no relationship between the environmental message a participant said was most appealing and the participant's values. As predicted, however, participants with egoistic values were more likely to choose the egoistically-framed volunteer opportunity. Contrary to expectations, those with altruistic or biospheric values revealed no preferences for a particular message. Both connection to nature and environmentally-responsible behavior were negatively correlated with materialistic values, while trust was positively correlated with environmentally-responsible behavior, but not with connection to nature. Religious and economic values, control, and subjective social status were not significantly related to environmentally-responsible behavior or connection to nature, nor were any of the demographic variables. While egoistically-framed messages were not more appealing to participants with egoistic values, egoistically-framed volunteer opportunities were more effective in motivating these participants to volunteer, suggesting that egoistic framing may be a way to encourage environmentally-responsible behavior.
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