Project Aims
Project Team

Social Psychology and Economics in Environmental Research (SPEER)
January 1999 - April 2000

Funded by the European Science Foundation (ESF)
with support from the UK Environment Agency and English Nature


Planned SPEER Publications

There are three publications which are planned to come out of the SPEER Project in 2000 and 2001:

(i) SPEER Policy Research Brief
This Policy Research Brief will summarise the key issues on the five themes which formed the basic structure of the Cambridge workshop. These themes are:

  • Behaviour, Attitude, Preferences (attitude formation, preference changes, value activation, context dependency)
  • Social Identity, Institutions, Social Norms (theory and application of social identity, institutions context, theory and application of social norms)
  • Society/Community Decisions (applications of community decisions, societal movements)
  • Regulation (common access resources, applications)
  • Social Dilemmas (theory and applications)

(ii) Special Issue of the Journal of Economic Psychology
Special Issue edited by Clive L. Spash & Anders Biel.

Clive L. Spash and Anders Biel (2002) Social psychology and economics in environmental research. (PDF) Journal of Economic Psychology 23(5): 551-555.

Introduction to the special issue

Cook, A. J., G. N. Kerr, et al. (2002). "Attitudes and intentions towards purchasing GM food." Journal of Economic Psychology 23(5): 557-572.

This study identifies the nature, strength and relative importance of influences on intentions to purchase genetically modified (GM) food. Drawing upon contemporary attitude–behaviour research, a model is developed of intention to purchase GM food. The model is a modification of the Theory of Planned Behaviour [I. Ajzen, The theory of planned behaviour, Organ. Behav. Hum. Dec. Processes 50 (1991) 179] with self-identity as an additional determinant of intention. Also included in the model are a number of factors hypothesised as having relationships with the determinant components of the model, including prior purchasing based on concern for the environment and concern for personal health. Survey questions were developed using focus groups. The postal survey (N=266) was undertaken in Canterbury, New Zealand. Key findings were that self-identity, attitude, subjective norm and perceived behavioural control were all significant in determining intention. In addition, these determinants were distinguished in terms of their relationships with age, gender, prior behaviour, and the believability of statements by companies engaged in GM food production. Changes in intention given the nature of its determinants are discussed. These hinge upon changes in altruistic concerns related to GM food production and consideration is given to tactics of proponents and opponents of the technology and implications for government policy.

Bamberg, S. (2002). "Implementation intention versus monetary incentive comparing the effects of interventions to promote the purchase of organically produced food." Journal of Economic Psychology 23(5): 573-587.

The present field experiment investigates the effects of three interventions on the enactment of the goal intention to test organically produced food offered by a local bio-shop. Study participants were 320 German University students who normally did not purchase organically produced food. The three interventions consist in a monetary incentive, the stimulation to form a specific plan when to act (so-called implementation intention), and a combination of both interventions. The interventions are assumed to promote the enactment of the test-intention by suppressing the distracting influence of past food purchase habits. As expected, in the control group food purchase habit exerts a strong negative influence on the probability of the shop-test purchase of organic produce. Compared with the control group, all three experimental groups showed a significantly greater probability of enacting their purchase intention. In the experimental groups food purchase habit does not influence the actual test purchase. But contrary to expectations the effectiveness of the three interventions does not differ significantly.

McCalley, L. T. and C. J. H. Midden (2002). "Energy conservation through product-integrated feedback: The roles of goal-setting and social orientation." Journal of Economic Psychology 23(5): 589-603.

The purpose of this study was to find a means to increase energy conservation behavior by giving consumers immediate energy feedback. The study explored the roles of goals to save energy and kW h feedback. Feedback was given, and conservation goals set, via a simulated, technologically advanced, washing machine control panel. One hundred subjects each completed 20 simulated washing trials. Self-set and assigned goals were compared as to their effect on conservation behavior when used in combination with energy feedback. Both generated similar energy savings with the self-set goal group using 21% less energy than the control group. Social orientation, a personality factor, was found to interact with goal-setting mode, with pro-self individuals saving more energy when allowed to self-set a goal and pro-social individuals saving more energy when assigned a goal.

Thřgersen, J. and F. Ölander (2002). "Human values and the emergence of a sustainable consumption pattern: A panel study." Journal of Economic Psychology 23(5): 605-630.

In this study, data from a random sample of Danish consumers are used to test the hypothesis that the emergence of a sustainable consumption pattern is influenced by individual value priorities. By the use of a cross-lagged panel design and structural equation modelling it is possible to draw firmer conclusions about the direction of causality than has been possible in previous research.

Bonaiuto, M., G. Carrus, et al. (2002). "Local identity processes and environmental attitudes in land use changes: The case of natural protected areas." Journal of Economic Psychology 23(5): 631-653.

The paper concerns pro-environmental attitudes, local identity and place attachment (PA) in the institution of protected natural areas. A theoretical claim is made to frame traditional social psychological research on environmental concern into a “place specific” perspective. Two studies are presented in which pro-environmental attitudes, regional identity (RI) and PA are analysed in two different Italian national parks. In study one (N=115), local residents (people who live inside the park area) and non-local residents (people who live in the same region but outside the park area) were interviewed by questionnaire. The results showed local groups with negative attitudes toward both general and specific natural protected areas and high degrees of RI and PA and non-local groups with the opposite pattern. In study two (N=854), the same differences between locals and non-locals were confirmed in a larger sample; also, various subgroups of local residents who differ in terms of their prevalent economic activities and specific interests were compared. Subjects more involved in local economic activities showed more negative attitudes toward natural protected areas (generally and specifically) and higher degrees of RI and place attachment than subjects more involved in ecological and pro-environmental activities. Both theoretical and policymaking implications of these results are discussed.

Bonini, N., A. Biel, et al. (2002). "Influencing what the money is perceived to be worth: Framing and priming in contingent valuation studies." Journal of Economic Psychology 23(5): 655-663.

In contingent valuation studies willingness to pay (WTP) for a non-use value may be affected by how much the respondents perceive that a money contribution they plan or are asked to make is worth. In Study 1, 66 psychology undergraduates stated how much they were willing to pay for cleaning the lakes in the country. Different groups were told that the suggested contribution was equivalent to the cost of a more or a less valuable service. As expected, the WTP was less in the former than in the latter group. Similar results were obtained in Study 2 for 280 randomly selected residents of a metropolitan area answering a mail-back questionnaire. Half of them who first recalled buying something too expensive indicated a higher WTP than those who first recalled buying something well worth the money.

Spash, C. L. (2002). "Informing and forming preferences in environmental valuation: Coral reef biodiversity." Journal of Economic Psychology 23(5): 665-687.

The level and depth of information provision required for making informed judgements over environmental options has remained troublesome in various contexts from individual choice through to international policy. In the valuation literature concern has been expressed for ‘information bias’ leading to distorted estimates of the worth of environmental entities (e.g. wildlife, ecosystems) because peoples intentions are formed during the valuation process by the information provided. Contending psychological models on the role of information and its relationship to ethical concerns are reviewed with respect to public decision processes over environmental entities. The robustness of pre-existing environmental preferences is then linked to ethical positions but their role is unclear. Empirical evidence is reported from a contingent valuation method study of coral reef biodiversity on the strong connections between informing and forming preferences and specific ethical beliefs regarding environmental entities.

(iii) SPEER Book (edited by Clive L. Spash & Anders Biel)
The book will consist of two parts, corresponding to the content of workshops one and two respectively. The first part will address theoretical aspects, and the second part will focus on case studies. The planned content for part one is to focus on what various theories from different fields have to contribute to environmental research, and part two will have a similar structure to the Policy Research Brief (see above).

SPEER pages designed by Claudia Carter, maintained by Robin Faichney. Last update 11:31 30 May 2012.

Project Aims
Project Team