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Using Cognitive Dissonance to Communicate with Hypocrites About Water Conservation and Climate Change



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Journal of Applied Communications
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Using Cognitive Dissonance to Communicate with
Hypocrites About Water Conservation and
Climate Change
Melissa R. Taylor
University of Florida
Alexa J. Lamm
University of Florida
Lisa K. Lundy
University of Florida
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Using Cognitive Dissonance to Communicate with Hypocrites About
Water Conservation and Climate Change
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Using Cognitive Dissonance to Communicate with Hypocrites
About Water Conservation and Climate Change
Despite near unanimity about the existence of climate change from the science community,
the United State’s public opinion varies between those who believe to those who deny its
existence (Donner & McDaniels, 2013). Scientists have confirmed that climate change is real, it
is happening now, and humans are primarily to blame (Liu, Vedlitz, Stoutenborough, &
Robinson, 2015). Research has shown individual attitudes about climate change are influenced
by many factors including personal values, political ideology, current events, media coverage
and risk perception (Donner & McDaniels, 2013). The discrepancy between public opinion and
scientific evidence has generated concern given the public makes everyday choices about their
use of natural resources including water, which is affected a great deal by climate change (Guy,
Kashima, Walker, & O’Neill, 2014). While the planet warms, the hydrological cycle will
intensify causing wet regions to get even wetter and dry regions drier (Famiglietti, 2016). The
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2013) is highly confident that the contrast between
wet and dry regions and wet and dry seasons will increase over most of the world.
Areas affected by drought have become the most concerning. In the last decade, there has
been an increased interest and attention towards water security, reflected in the numerous
publications, research, and funding initiatives focused on the topic (Bakker, 2012; Cook &
Bakker, 2012; Pahl-Wstol, Gupta, & Bhaduri, 2016; UNESCO-IHE, 2009; World Economic
Forum, 2011). It has been predicted that by 2050 one-third of all U.S. counties will face water
scarcity (Spencer & Altman, 2010). The length and location of droughts have increased due to
climate change and this trend is projected to continue into the future (Burke, Brown, &
Christidis, 2006). In addition, global demands on water continue to rise due to population
increases, agricultural needs, and industrial demands (Kingsolver, 2010). Water supports human
life, sustains the ecological balance, and supports economic activities around the world
(Hurlimann, Dolnicar, & Meyer, 2009), therefore it must be protected. People can witness the
direct effect climate change has on water, therefore water issues associated with climate change
are garnering a great deal of public attention.
Unfortunately, the scientific community has not fully and effectively communicated the
science behind climate change and its link to water resources to the general public (Liu, Smith, &
Safi, 2014). When scientists discuss climate change they are often referring to a set of complex
variables and topical areas which may include ocean levels, temperature, annual rainfall, and
atmospheric pressure (Werndl, 2015) that seem ambiguous to the general public and not
something they directly impact with their behaviors. However, Martinsson and Lundqvist (2010)
found that knowledge levels of climate change did impact their respondents’ attitudes towards
water conservation and guided individual water conservation behavior engagement.
Agricultural communicators have encouraged communities to implement water conservation
solutions for the sake of saving water for the future (Gorham, Lamm, & Rumble, 2014; Lenton
& Muller, 2009; Warner, Rumble, Martin, Lamm, & Cantrell, 2015). However, most water
conservation practices occur at the individual level and understanding factors that lead to
positive water conservation attitudes have proven to be difficult to measure (Lamm, Lamm, &
Carter, 2015; Leal, Rumble, & Lamm, 2015). Communication campaigns focused on future
water supply levels with an emphasis on climate change may assist in the promotion of water
Taylor et al.: Cognitive Dissonance to Communicate About Water and Climate Change
Published by New Prairie Press, 2017
conservation behaviors necessary to ensure communities have enough water to meet future needs
(Evans et al., 2015). Agricultural communicators may be able to increase engagement in water
conservation behavior engagement by focusing on communicating about climate change, a topic
often overlooked or avoided and not included in water discussions. Therefore, this study sought
to explore the connection (or disconnect) between public beliefs and attitudes about water
conservation and knowledge and beliefs regarding climate change to guide the development of
effective communication campaigns focused on water conservation.
Conceptual Framework and Literature Review
The theory of cognitive dissonance suggests individuals tend to feel uncomfortable when
their behavior and beliefs contradict one and another (Festinger, 1957). Cognitive dissonance
(Festinger, 1957) guided the development of a conceptual framework for this study, which
sought to understand the disconnect between individuals holding a high level of climate change
knowledge and yet not engaging in positive water conservation practices. Martinsson and
Lundqvist (2010) stated ‘the importance of consistency in the environmental field and the
amount of dissonance produced by behaving inconsistently has been found to depend on the
person’s moral standards for environmentally responsible behavior’ (p. 522). Furthermore,
Thogersen (2004) found individuals often self-report dissonant environmental behaviors because
they fail to perceive the relevant similarity between the behaviors (example: buying organic and
recycling). He advocated for communicating to citizens the environmental significance of daily
individual behaviors.
When it comes to climate change people typically begin in a state of disinterest about the
climate and exhibit little or no interest in changing their behavior (Markowitz & Doppelt, 2009).
This tends to be caused by a lack of information and the idea that individual behaviors will do
little to mitigate the global situation (Markowitz & Doppelt, 2009). Providing individuals with
knowledge about climate change, and emphasizing their personal role, may enable them to make
the decision most suitable to their beliefs and behaviors. Based on previous research
‘environmental choices are not reflective of a general conservation stance, but are instead made
on an activity-to-activity basis’ (Picket, Kangun, & Gorve, 1993, p. 240). Additionally, studies
have shown cognitive dissonance can produce behavior that is environmentally friendly (Aitken,
McMahon, Wearing, & Finlayson, 1994).
A conceptual framework was introduced by Martinsson and Lundqvist (2010) that identified
individuals who practiced green habits and whether or not those practices correlated with their
attitudes toward the environment. Green habits are defined as behaviors that seek to limit an
individuals’ ecological footprint (Dobson, 2007). Martinsson and Lundqvist (2010) created an
environmental attitudes and behavior quartet. Using this quartet there are four possible
combinations of attitudes and behaviors that can be identified. Two of these groups show
consistent attitudes and behaviors while the remaining exhibit inconsistent patterns leading to
cognitive dissonance. The conceptual framework was adapted to address climate change for this
study and can be seen in Figure 1.
Combinations of climate change knowledge and conservation behavior engagement within
the conceptual framework lead to four theoretical categories of individuals in terms of
environmental attitudes and conservation behaviors: Believers, Diehards, Hypocrites and Coverts
(Martinsson & Lundqvist, 2010). Believers are identified as those who possess high levels of
climate change knowledge and exhibit positive water conservation behaviors. Believers reflect
Journal of Applied Communications, Vol. 101 [2017], Iss. 3, Art. 5
DOI: 10.4148/1051-0834.1843
consistency when it comes to their attitudes and behaviors (Martinsson & Lundqvist, 2010). In
this case, Believers trust climate change is happening and is influenced by humans. They also
practice positive water conservation behaviors and actions. Diehards also exhibit consistency
between knowledge and behaviors, however, these individuals hold low levels of knowledge of
climate change and do not exhibit positive water conservation behaviors (Martinsson &
Lundqvist, 2010). Diehards typically act with a disregard towards climate change and water
conservation behaviors.
Conservation Behaviors
Individuals holding low levels of climate
change knowledge but exhibit positive
conservation practices
Individuals holding high levels of
climate change knowledge and exhibit
positive conservation practices
Individuals holding low levels of climate
change knowledge and do not exhibit
positive conservation practices
Individuals holding high levels of
climate change knowledge but do not
exhibit positive conservation practices
Climate Change Knowledge
Figure 1. Climate Change Quartet Conceptual Framework (adapted from Martinsson and
Lundqvist, 2010)
On the other side of the model, there are two categories with inconsistencies between beliefs
and behaviors. One is the Hypocrites. Hypocrites express high levels of climate change
knowledge but do not engage in positive water conservation behaviors. Based on Festinger’s
(1957) theory this group exhibits the highest level of cognitive dissonance. Hypocrisy is not
uncommon in the realm of conservation behavior. This discrepancy can produce behavioral
changes, especially when the relationship between knowledge and behavioral actions is deemed
hypercritical (Dickerson, Thibodeau, Aronson, & Miller, 1992; Rubens, Gosling, Bonaiuto,
Brisbois, & Moch, 2015). Researchers have even purposefully induced hypocrisy in order to
examine its ability to change intentions and behaviors (Aronson, Fried, & Stone, 1991; Priolo et
al., 2016).
The last group is the Coverts that engage in water conservation behaviors but have low levels
of climate change knowledge (Martinsson & Lundqvist, 2010). This last group also exhibits a
high level of cognitive dissonance in relation to their knowledge and behaviors and are most
likely engaging in water conservation behaviors for reasons other than climate change.
Purpose and Research Objectives
The purpose of this study was to explain cognitive dissonance in persons from the general
public who display characteristics and traits of Hypocrites. This knowledge will then be used to
develop agricultural communication initiatives targeted at Hypocrites in order to alter their water
conservation behavior. The research objectives were as follows
Taylor et al.: Cognitive Dissonance to Communicate About Water and Climate Change
Published by New Prairie Press, 2017
Research Objective 1:
Describe Hypocrites knowledge of climate change.
Research Objective 2:
Describe Hypocrites perception of climate change.
Research Objective 3:
Describe Hypocrites level of engagement in water conservation behaviors.
Research Objective 4:
Identify the sources Hypocrites use to get information about water issues.
The research presented here was part of a larger research project with four sections germane
to the objectives of the study. The researchers used a web-based survey to collect data that
included several elements from already existing, reliable instruments including the Canadian
water attitudes survey (Patterson, 2012) and the American Knowledge of Climate Change survey
(Leiserowitz, Smith, & Marlon, 2010). The latter survey was used in Yale’s 2010 Climate
Change Communication report: Americans’ Knowledge of Climate Change (Leiserowitz et al.,
To measure levels of climate change knowledge test consisting of eleven statements where
respondents were asked to indicate whether each statement was true or false was utilized. This
scale originated from the American Knowledge of Climate Change survey (Leiserowitz et al.,
2010) found to be reliable in the literature with coefficients ranging from .72 to .86. For every
correct answer, the respondents were given a score of one and an incorrect answer was given a
zero. The responses were summed to create an overall climate change knowledge score ranging
from zero to 11 (M = 7.30 SD = 2.43). Reliability was calculated ex post facto using a Guttman
split-half test resulting in a reliability coefficient of .70.
To identify perspectives on climate change, respondents were asked to select which of the
three statements they personally believed: (a) climate change is happening now, caused mainly
by human activities, (b) climate change is happening now, caused mainly by natural forces, and
(c) climate change is NOT happening. This question was adapted from the American Knowledge
of Climate Change survey by Leiserowitz et al. (2010) and reported descriptively.
To measure water conservation behavior engagement, respondents were asked to respond to
two sets of statements. These statements originated from the Canadian water attitudes survey
(Patterson, 2012). The first set contained 10 statements pertaining to water conservation
activities where respondents were asked to indicate how often they engaged in each behavior on
a five-point Likert scale ranging from 1 = Never, 2 = Almost never, 3 = Sometimes, 4 = Almost
every time, and 5 = Every time. Example statements included: ‘I shower for no more than five
minutes each time I bathe,’ ‘I let my sprinklers run when it has rained or is raining,’ and ‘I allow
used motor oil to run down a storm drain.’ The second set contained six statements asking
respondents to indicate if they engaged in water conservation behaviors by answering ‘yes’or
‘no’ to each statement. Example statements included ‘I have low-flow shower heads installed in
my home,’ ‘I have water-efficient toilets installed in my home,’ and ‘I have low-water
consuming plant materials in my yard.’
Journal of Applied Communications, Vol. 101 [2017], Iss. 3, Art. 5
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A total engagement score for water conservation behaviors was assigned to each respondent
by adding up the number of positive behavior experiences they reported. For the first set of
statements those who answered almost every time or every time received one point. Three of
these statements were reverse coded to reflect a positive answer: I turn off the water every time
I brush my teeth,’ I avoid watering my lawn in the summer,’ and I shower for no more than
five minutes each time I bathe. From the second set, each yes response was given one point as
well. The responses were summed to create an overall score ranging from zero to 16 (M = 7.48,
SD = 3.31). Reliability was calculated ex post facto using a Guttman split-half test resulting in a
reliability coefficient of .68.
Finally, respondents were asked to identify where they received information about water
issues in the U.S. Respondents were given a list of 13 possible information sources and allowed
to check all that applied. Those sources included newspaper, social media, Internet, magazine,
farming organizations, family/friends, attending events/activities, governmental websites, self-
observation, television, radio, other, or none of the above. Prior to distribution, a panel of experts
reviewed the survey instrument for internal validity. The panel included an Assistant Professor
and Extension Specialist in Water Economics and Policy, the Director of the UF/IFAS Center for
Public Issues Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources, and an Assistant Professor
specializing in survey methodology.
The population of interest was U.S. residents aged 18 or older. Non-probability opt-in
sampling techniques were used. A third party public opinion research company, Qualtrics,
distributed the survey by sending a link to 2,703 U.S. residents. Respondents had to meet certain
criteria based on the sampling procedure to enter the survey and pass a series of quality checks to
complete the survey to ensure cognitively responsive results. After criteria-based selection and
quality assurance, a 39% participation rate was obtained (N = 1,050). Demographic questions
were included in the survey instrument to ensure the collected sample reflected the U.S. adult
population and were geographically representative of the nation. In addition, the data were
weighted using the 2010 U.S. Census for age, gender, and race/ethnicity to ensure the
respondents were representative of the population of interest (Kalton & Flores-Cervantes, 2003).
This is a common procedure when using non-probability sampling to ensure accuracy and
alleviate the impacts of selection, exclusion, and bias (Baker et al., 2013). The results were
analyzed descriptively using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) version 23
and Excel.
Hypocrites Knowledge of Climate Change
Scores for the climate change knowledge questions were averaged to create an overall
climate change knowledge index that could range from zero to 11. Based on the climate change
index mean score of 7.30 a response of seven or higher indicated a high level of climate change
knowledge (Table 1). Next, an overall water conservation index was created ranging from zero to
16. Based on the water conservation behavior index mean score of 7.48 a response of six or
lower indicated the respondent exhibited negative conservation behaviors. Respondents with
high levels of climate change knowledge and poor water conservation behaviors were labeled
Hypocrites (Figure 2). The 233 respondents that fell into this category were used for further
Taylor et al.: Cognitive Dissonance to Communicate About Water and Climate Change
Published by New Prairie Press, 2017
Table 1
Climate Change Knowledge Level and Level of Water Conservation Behavior Engagement
Knowledge Quiza
M (SD)
Water Conservation
M (SD)
8.78 (1.27)
9.84 (2.03)
9.01 (1.28)
3.98 (1.72)
4.59 (1.43)
9.26 (1.87)
4.67 (1.25)
4.15 (1.65)
Note. aScale ranged from 0 = no knowledge to 16 = complete knowledge; bScale ranged from
0 = no engagement to 11 = complete engagement.
Figure 2. Climate Change Quartet
Demographically, the Hypocrites were slightly more female (52.9%) than male. In addition,
Hypocrites were well educated with 46.9% having at least a 4-year college degree or a
Graduate/Professional degree. Hypocrites tended to report being liberal or very liberal (34.8%)
and were young (Table 2).
Journal of Applied Communications, Vol. 101 [2017], Iss. 3, Art. 5
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Table 2
Demographics of Overall Respondents and Hypocrites
(N = 1,050)
(n = 233)
Less than 12th grade
High School/GED
Some college, no degree
2-year college degree
4-year college
Graduate/Professional degree
Asian or Pacific Islander
Native American
Hispanic Ethnicity
Political Beliefs
Very Liberal
Very Conservative
Political Affiliation
Taylor et al.: Cognitive Dissonance to Communicate About Water and Climate Change
Published by New Prairie Press, 2017
Hypocrites Perception of Climate Change
In addition to knowledge level being measured quantitatively using a test, perceptions of
climate change were also examined descriptively using a categorical question. Hypocrites were
likely to believe climate change was happening now and caused mainly by humans. There were a
relatively low number of Hypocrites that believed climate change was caused by natural forces
(18.6%) or not happening at all (Table 3).
Table 3
Perceptions of Climate Change
(N = 1,050)
(n = 233)
Climate change is happening now and caused mainly by humans
Climate change is happening now, caused mainly by natural forces
Climate change is not happening now
Hypocrite Engagement in Water Conservation Behaviors
Respondents were asked to identify their level of engagement in water conservation behavior
efforts with a series of 16 statements. The first ten statements represented water conservation
actions. The highest reported negative water conservation actions Hypocrite respondents
reported being engaged in were leaving the water running in the kitchen when washing dishes
(45.0%), showering for longer than five minutes (42.8%), never turning off the water while
brushing teeth (33.6%), and watering the lawn in the summer (32.2%) (Table 4).
Table 4
Hypocrites Engagement in Water Conservation Actions (n = 233)
Every Time/
Every Time
I leave the water running in the kitchen when washing
or rinsing dishes
I shower for no more than five minutes each time I
I turn off the water while brushing my teeth
I avoid watering my lawn in the summer
I allow soapy water to run down a storm drain
I allow oil from cooking to run down the drain
I let my sprinklers run when rain is predicted in the
I allow used motor oil to run down a storm drain
I hose down my driveway
I let my sprinklers run when it has rained or is raining
Journal of Applied Communications, Vol. 101 [2017], Iss. 3, Art. 5
DOI: 10.4148/1051-0834.1843
The second series of questions focused on water conservation behaviors. The highest
reported negative water conservation behaviors included Hypocrite respondents not doing the
following: using recycled wastewater/reclaimed water to irrigate lawns (97.2%), using rain
barrels to collect water for use in garden or lawn (96.8%), donating money to a nonprofit to
provide drinking water to another country (90.7%) and having low-water consuming plant
materials in their yard (88.4%). These results are shown in Table 5.
Table 5
Hypocrites Engagement in Water Conservation Behaviors (n = 233)
I use recycled wastewater/reclaimed water to irrigate my lawn/landscape
I use rain barrels to collect water for use in my garden/lawn
I have donated money at least once in the past five years to a nonprofit
that works to provide access to drinking water in another country.
I have low-water consuming plant materials in my yard
I have low-flow shower heads installed in my home
I have water-efficient toilets installed in my home.
Sources Hypocrites use to get Information about Water Issues
Respondents were asked where they retrieved their information about water. The results from
the Hypocrites are displayed in Table 6. Hypocrites were most likely to obtain their information
about water issues from the Internet, television, or social media.
Table 6
Sources Hypocrites use to get Information about Water Issues (n = 233)
Social Media
Family and Friends
Governmental Website
Farming Organization
Attending Events/Activities
Conclusions and Recommendations
This study sought to identify the Hypocrites who had a high level of knowledge about
climate change but were not practicing water conservation behaviors so their cognitive
dissonance could be addressed with targeted agricultural communication campaigns.
Demographically, the findings revealed Hypocrites were younger, liberal (possibly Democratic)
Taylor et al.: Cognitive Dissonance to Communicate About Water and Climate Change
Published by New Prairie Press, 2017
females who are highly educated. These results are comparable to similar studies focused on
environmental conservation; the results also suggested that focusing studies specifically on
climate change does not alter the target Hypocrite audience and that future educational initiatives
can be targeted towards this audience (Liu et al., 2014; McCright & Dunlap, 2011; Milfont,
Milojeve, Greaves, & Sibley, 2015).
The results revealed Hypocrites believed climate change was real and caused by humans but
are doing little to curb their personal water use and are not taking personal action to mitigate the
effects of climate change. For example, Hypocrites are likely to allow cooking oil to run down
the drain, a serious water quality issue, and allow the faucet to run while brushing their teeth.
Both of these behaviors are simple to alter.
In addition, a large percentage are also watering their lawn after it rains/if rain is predicted,
which uses three gallons of water per minute (University of Florida IFAS Extension, 2016), are
not reducing their showering time, which equates to 30-75 gallons per 15 minute shower (United
States Geological Survey, 2016) and continue to leave the faucet running while doing dishes, a
possible usage of 8-27 gallons (United States Geological Survey, 2016). Since these behaviors
are those where the largest impact can be made, agricultural communication materials should
focus on trying to alter these targeted behaviors. Based on cognitive dissonance theory
(Festinger, 1957), Hypocrites should want to adjust their behavior to more closely align with
their beliefs so targeted communication efforts to the younger, liberal, more highly educated
population should have the largest effect.
The results also revealed Hypocrites are getting their information about water issues from the
Internet followed by television. Agricultural communicators should consider utilizing targeted
social media campaigns during times of water restriction. Attention is already paid to water
issues and the media buzz can be leveraged to encourage specific behavior engagement. Social
media outlets, such as Facebook, can target campaigns to specific users. Agricultural
communicators should consider utilizing these avenues to send specific messages about
minimizing shower time, shutting off the faucet when brushing teeth and minimizing water use
when washing dishes. They may want to consider partnering with organizations whose websites
or social media outlets are visited by a younger liberal clientele in an effort to reach Hypocrites
specifically. Hypocrites can become Believers if steps are taken to encourage them to rectify
inconsistencies between their beliefs and actions (Martinsson & Lundqvist, 2010).
In order to reduce dissonance, continued exposure targeted at the Hypocrite demographic
audience may encourage understanding of why particular habits are damaging and should be
addressed. Specifically, targeting some of the behaviors that are simple to alter is suggested. For
example, the social media efforts previously described could address the fact that Hypocrites
may not know the damage their behaviors cause. It is important to inform them of the hazards of
pouring cooking oil down the sink such as the possibility of it clogging household pipes and
potentially leading to sewage overflows, resulting in damaged local waterways (Harris County
Water Protection Group, 2016). The oil can also cause disruption at water treatment facilities,
form toxic products that linger in the environment and cause devastating physical effects to
animal and wildlife areas (Environmental Protection Agency, 2016). Preventing Hypocrites (and
others) from pouring oil down the drain will help minimize negative water quality issues. The
other simple behavior to alter is turning off the water while brushing their teeth. This can save up
to four gallons of water per day, potentially 120 gallons per month (Texas A&M Agrilife
Extension, 2013).
Journal of Applied Communications, Vol. 101 [2017], Iss. 3, Art. 5
DOI: 10.4148/1051-0834.1843
Agricultural communicators could create infographics to be shared online and in print that
stresses the importance of protecting water resources in terms of quality or quantity.
Communicators can help motivate Hypocrites to promote the adoption of better water habits.
Working directly with this target group may also increase researchers’ understanding of why this
specific group’s actions are incongruent with their beliefs.
Water issues related to climate change are happening across the nation and are becoming a
priority for many states. Future research could be conducted to further understand why the public
does not believe in or understand climate change and how to leverage climate change knowledge
to alter behavior. An in-depth analysis of Hypocrites, specifically, may provide additional data
on how to access and initiate change within this audience. A qualitative approach using focus
groups or in-person interviews with Hypocrites in different regions of the U.S. could be used to
further understand if there are regional differences and how Hypocrites want to be
communicated with about climate change and water conservation behavior engagement. If focus
groups were conducted, a pre/post test could be used to determine if the simple act of meeting in
a group with likeminded individuals altered their perceptions regarding their personal water
behaviors. Communication materials, including the social media messages recommended earlier,
could also be tested using experimental designs with Hypocrites to identify which would be best
to utilize broadly to encourage behavior change.
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Taylor et al.: Cognitive Dissonance to Communicate About Water and Climate Change
Published by New Prairie Press, 2017
Melissa Taylor was a Research Assistant in the UF/IFAS Center for Public Issues Education
when this research was conducted. She is currently a research consultant based in Southern
Alexa Lamm is an associate professor in the Department of Agricultural Education and
Communication at University of Florida.
Lisa Lundy is an associate professor in the Department of Agricultural Education and
Communication at University of Florida.
Journal of Applied Communications, Vol. 101 [2017], Iss. 3, Art. 5
DOI: 10.4148/1051-0834.1843
... One potential method is the 'hypocrisy paradigm' that seeks to induce feelings of hypocrisy and associated negative emotions [69]. Dickerson et al. [70] and Taylor et al. [71], for example, highlights the potential to exploit cognitive dissonance to encourage water conservation by making people feel hypocritical where their underlying beliefs are inconsistent with their behaviours. Nevertheless, we found that most participants acknowledged that they did not proactively think about the connection between their health and their well, or conciously think about the connection between flooding and their supply. ...
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Flooding events can inflict major disruption on society and cause significant infrastructural and environmental damage. However, the adverse health impacts of flooding, particularly as they pertain to private groundwater resources used for consumption, are frequently overlooked. Whilst the literature has previously found a lack of well stewardship among private well owners under ‘normal’ conditions, our understanding of private well owners’ perceptions of and preparedness for the risks posed by flooding to their domestic well-water supply is limited. This study advances the qualitative literature on this subject. It is amongst the first qualitative studies employing focus groups to examine private well owners, and the first in an Irish context. Six focus groups were conducted in four counties in Ireland, with the themes emerging from the focus groups refined, organised, and interpreted in the context of the Health Belief Model. Most focus group participants expressed awareness of the potential severity of well contamination following flooding, but many did not consider their local area “at risk” of it, notwithstanding the occurrence of previous local flooding events. All focus group participants shared the view that owners were primarily responsible for their own wells. However, their capacity to undertake appropriate actions was reduced by reliance on visual and olfactory evidence to assess water quality, and concerns regarding the financial cost and accessibility of water testing facilities. The phenomenon of misperception was also evident among participants. In light of the increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events including flooding, these findings provide direction for future socio-hydrogeological interventions. Targeted communication strategies highlighting the risks posed by flooding, mitigation measures that promote well stewardship, and protective behaviours are required. The provision of access to free well water testing would also promote protective actions.
... In the EB literature, cognitive dissonance has been explored in various contexts, including climate change, water conservation, sustainable tourism and sustainable consumption (Dolnicar et al., 2017;Gadeikien_ e et al., 2019;Taylor et al., 2017). In a recent study, the authors reported certain levels of cognitive dissonance among sustainability scientists and their flight behaviors (Schrems and Upham, 2020). ...
Purpose This study aims to examine the organizational citizenship behaviors toward the environment among US-based faculty members, in social sciences, natural sciences, the humanities and engineering. Potential barriers that may stop academia from being more sustainable are examined but also the opportunities for academics to be involved in environmental sustainability are explored. Design/methodology/approach The authors followed a sequential explanatory mixed methods approach using online surveys (n = 633) followed by open-ended phone interviews (n = 28). Findings Results suggest that there are certain power dynamics that force young faculty members in anti-environmental behaviors, although they are cognizant of the negative impacts on the environment. Many faculty members engage in environmental-related actions outside their service requirements, but this is mostly the case for tenured faculty members. Originality/value The originality of this study lies in the fact that it explores environmental behaviors from an academic ranking perspective and expands on pertinent barriers to promote sustainable behaviors in academia.
... Generally, management by values attempts to identify the gap between what you say you believe and what you do practically. Festinger (1957) introduced the concept of cognitive dissonance in theory for the first time by publishing a book entitled "theory of cognitive dissonance" (To get acquainted with the examples of employing cognitive dissonance for conservation purposes, see Taylor et al. 2017;Kantola et al. 1984;Dickerson et al. 1992). According to Fig. 4 It is possible to attribute geotourism attractions to the two concepts of "intrinsic value" and "instrumental value" Festinger (1957), the basis of this theory is the belief that human always attempts to maintain internal harmony and integrity between values, attitudes, and beliefs. ...
Over the past 14 years, several geosites have been identified as geotourism all over Iran, and it seems the time has come to define and implement systematic mechanisms in order to conserve this valuable geoheritage. Therefore, using a combined approach, this study aims to answer the question about the conceptual model of conservation management of geotourism attractions. The required data were collected using the archival method; in the following, it is attempted to discover and identify the conceptual model of conservation management of geotourism attractions through reviewing and analyzing the related theories and texts using logical reasoning method. Content validity ratio and one-sample t test have been used to validate the conceptual model. The research findings resulted in the conceptual model of conservation management of geotourism attraction in the form of mutual relationship between three layers of geotourism attraction, people, and government. In the layer of geotourism attraction, the significance of geotourism attraction is indicated by instrumental and intrinsic values. Meanwhile, the integrity of geotourism attractions is in itself an effective factor in attributing instrumental and intrinsic values to geotourism attractions. If the integrity of geotourism attractions is weakened by natural and human threats, naturally it leads to reduced values of geotourism attractions. In the people layer, the values attributed to geotourism attractions are affected by contextual and personal factor of people. However, the analysis of the factors, which cause the demonstration and decrease inconsistency between people’s behavior and belief toward values, is so effective on conservation of geotourism attractions. In the government layer, the government makes an agenda for conserving attractions and their values based on the interaction of people with geotourism attractions through planning, organizing, guiding, and supervising. The results of the conceptual model validation demonstrated that content validity ratio was higher than the acceptable level for all components. Moreover, content validity ratio was 0.92 for the entire model, and 0.94, 0.83, and 1.00 for the three dimensions of geotourism attraction, people, and government, respectively. This indicates the entire model and its dimensions are confirmed by 15 experts. Accordingly, utility hypothesis for the research conceptual model has been confirmed by the experts based on the results of one-sample T test.
... Research indicates that while people are aware of climate change, they do not know what they as individuals can do to mitigate its effects or even if humans are the primary contributors to climate change (Leiserowitz et al., 2013). Taylor et al. (2017) found that even when individuals do acknowledge humans' contribution to climate change that does not necessarily result in taking personal action to reduce the effects of climate change. Arbuckle et al. (2013) studied Iowa farmers, focusing on their support for actions taken related to climate change adaptation and mitigation. ...
Water safety refers to the quality of one's drinking water and whether it lacks dangerous contaminants. Limited access to safe water is projected to impact approximately 5 billion people worldwide by 2050. Climate change and worsening severe weather events pose increasing threats to global water safety. However, people may not perceive links between climate change and water safety, potentially undermining their willingness to implement behaviors that improve water safety. Existing studies on water safety risk perceptions have mostly been conducted in single-country contexts, which limits researchers' ability to make cross-national comparisons. Here, we assessed the extent to which people's severe weather concern and climate change concern predict their water safety concern. Our analyses used survey data from the 142-country 2019 Lloyd's Register Foundation World Risk Poll, including 21 low-income and 34 lower-middle-income countries. In mixed-effects models, severe weather concern was significantly more predictive of water safety concern than was climate change concern, although both resulted in positive associations. Worldwide, this finding was robust, insensitive to key model specifications and countries' varying protection against unsafe drinking water. We suggest communicators and policymakers improve messaging about water safety and other environmental threats by explaining how they are impacted by worsening severe weather.
The ambitious carbon-reduction targets set out by the Paris Agreement, or by recent Green Deals such as the one launched by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, will require a high degree of engagement with the public. This is true not only as important changes in lifestyle are going to be needed from citizens, especially in developed economies, but also because top-down measures will need public approval to be put in place. This paper reviews literature from behavioural and environmental economics, cognitive sciences, (social) psychology, health policy, and marketing to condense key insights on how to make communication on the green transition more effective in terms of citizens’ engagement. In doing so, it distils six policy recommendations that can serve as building blocks for an impactful narrative accompanying decarbonisation strategies, in Europe and beyond. If used skilfully, an effective communication and consequent behavioural change holds the promise of complementing top-down financial and regulatory tools, accelerating the green transition.
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Remembering one's past transgressions of a social norm is known as an effective paradigm for enhancing pro-social and ecological behaviours. Our study aimed to show that reminding norm transgressions can arise cognitive dissonance and can lead to behavioural change as induced hypocrisy does. In particular, we tested whether inconsistency between the self-concept and the remembered past transgressions is or is not likely to encourage behavioural change. To reach this goal, we conducted an experiment comparing induced hypocrisy, injunctive inconsistency and descriptive inconsistency with five comparison conditions. The results showed that, as observed with the induced hypocrisy paradigm, presenting a salient injunctive norm and its past transgressions enhances psychological discomfort, actual donation and donation amounts for an ecological association. The discussion addresses applied perspectives and theoretical implications.
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Water quantity and quality are among the top issues currently facing Florida. To understand residents' perceptions of these issues as well as understand how agenda-setting may be used to influence residents' behaviors and opinions surrounding water issues, this study explored Florida residents' opinions of water. Agenda-setting served as the conceptual framework to aid in understanding where water quality and quantity emerge on the public's agenda. Responses were obtained from 469 Florida residents via an online survey. The results showed respondents believed water quality had not changed, with the exception of the quality of bays, which they believed was getting worse. Water quality was found to be an issue of high importance among respondents, especially in regard to the quality of drinking water. Respondents believed water quantity was highly important; however, more importance was associated with water quality issues. The results of this study identified the current disconnect that exists among residents concerning water issues. This study also established the salience of water issues on the public's agenda and how Florida residents could be better informed. A statewide communication campaign focused on both water quality and quantity issues was recommended to decrease the disconnect that currently exists between residents' perceptions and the reality of water issues. This campaign should utilize the technology-based outlets to stay informed with the public's agenda to personalize communication efforts. These efforts would increase the public's interest concerning water issues by reducing redundant information and diluting important issues.
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Although water covers approximately 70% of the planet, only a fraction is fresh water, and even less is used as a major source of drinking water. With the continuous increase in the amount of water used in modern standards of living, the quantity of water available is decreasing. The public is beginning to understand water needs to be conserved and they must play a role in water conservation. While previous literature examined how the majority of messages were catered toward the cost-effectiveness of conserving water, this study proposed how using a specific audience attribute could affect behaviors. The purpose of the study was to determine if critical thinking style can be used in the development of future communication strategies to improve water conservation behaviors. The findings of this study provided evidence of a relationship between critical thinking style and the level of engagement in water conservation behaviors. Recommendations suggested targeting the two constructs of critical thinking style, information seekers and engagers, in two different ways. Since the seekers prefer to gather information by seeking the sources themselves, communicators should focus on developing quality information about water conservation and placing it in easily accessible communications channels for the information seeker. On the other hand, a different communications approach should be taken with the engagers, who prefer to learn through their environment. Communicators should focus on communicating to the engager through the environment in word-of-mouth situations using traditional means such as opinion leaders as well as social media.
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Changing individuals' behaviors is a critical challenge for Extension professionals who encourage good irrigation practices and technologies for landscape water conservation. Multiple messages were used to influence two predictors of behavioral intent informed by the theory of planned behavior, Florida residents' (N = 1,063) attitude and perceived behavioral control. Individuals were randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups, each receiving a different strategically framed message. This article contributes to the literature on landscape water consumption behaviors by (a) demonstrating that messages can be used to positively affect both attitude and perceived behavioral control and (b) identifying specific message frames that may be used to realize greater impact. Two gain-framed message treatments both significantly increased participants' attitude and perceived behavioral control, and one of the loss-framed messages significantly increased participants' attitude. Results are discussed with practical application to promotion of landscape water-conservation behaviors and implications for future research.
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Global conflicts have rapidly made water the most contentious issue in the world today. Considering water drives health, industry, recreation, and the agricultural food system it is no surprise that it has become such a hot topic. As a result, the general public has an increased interest in water-focused policy; policy that can have a large impact on the agriculture industry. Agricultural and natural resource opinion leaders may differ or agree with the general public on water related issues, as well as perceptions of government influence. Identifying similarities and differences will allow agricultural educators to identify ways to resolve disagreements through improved education, communication and messaging, and leadership development of agricultural and natural resource opinion leaders. The findings indicated there are significant differences between agricultural and natural resource opinion leaders and the general public as it related to their knowledge of water issues and perceptions of government support for individual decision-making regarding environmental issues. Based on these findings it is suggested agricultural educators establish a common language that can be used with all audiences to discuss water issues, develop educational programming to assist opinion leaders when addressing observed knowledge gaps, and create educational coalitions to provide source credibility across audiences.
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Using a national probability sample of over 6,000 New Zealanders, this study examines socio-structural and psychological variables underpinning core climate change beliefs— " climate change is real " and " climate change is caused by humans ". Analyses focused on four belief profiles: those who believe in the reality of climate change and its human cause (53%), those undecided (30%), the complete skeptics (10%) and those who believe the climate is changing but is not caused by human activity (7%). Results support and extend a " conservative white male " effect in doubts concerning the science of human-caused climate change. Uniformly high beliefs in climate change reality and human cause was observed among respondents who were younger, female, educated, politically liberal, belonged to minority groups and who perceived that they were able to influence environmental outcomes. Belief in climate change was also stronger for those who endorse altruistic and openness values and who were high in personality trait levels of Agreeableness and Openness to Experience. Theoretical and practical implications of the findings are discussed.
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Among many potential causes for policymakers’ contention over whether there is a largely unified scientific agreement on global warming and climate change (GWCC), one possible factor, according to the information deficit theory, is that the scientists who testified in congressional hearings might be substantially divided in their views and positions associated with GWCC. To clarify this, we perform content analysis of 1350 testimonies from congressional GWCC hearings over a period of 39 years from 1969 to 2007 and use the data derived from this content analysis to provide an overview of scientist witnesses’ stances on GWCC. The key findings include: (1) among the scientists’ testimonies with an expressed view on whether GWCC is real, a vast majority (86 %) indicates that it is happening; (2) among the scientists’ testimonies with an identified stance on whether GWCC is anthropogenic, a great majority of them (78 %) indicates that GWCC is caused, at least to some degree, by human activity; (3) even under Republican controlled congresses, there is still a supermajority (75 %) - among the scientists’ testimonies with an expressed position on GWCC existence or GWCC cause - that believes that GWCC is real and that GWCC is anthropogenic; (4) most scientists’ testimonies (95 %) endorse pro-action policy to combat GWCC; and (5) the percentages of scientists’ views and positions are consistent across different types of scientist testimony groups. Our findings suggest that the scientific information transmitted to Congress is not substantially different from the general agreement in the climate science community.
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A growing body of research indicates that opinions about long-term climate change and other natural resource issues can be significantly affected by current weather conditions (e.g., outside air temperature) and other highly contingent environmental cues. Although increased severity and frequency of droughts is regarded as a likely consequence of anthropogenic climate change, little previous research has attempted to relate the experience of drought with public attitudes about water supply or water-related climate change issues. For this study, a large set (n = 3,163) of public survey data collected across nine states of the southern United States was spatio-temporally linked with records of short-term (~12 weeks) and long-term (~5 years) drought condition at the level of each respondent’s zip code. Multivariate ordinal logistic regression models that included numerous other independent variables (environmental ideology, age, gender, education, community size, residency duration, and local annual precipitation) indicated highly significant interactions with long-term drought condition, but showed no significant effect from short-term drought condition. Conversely, attitudes about water-related climate change showed highly significant interactions with short-term drought, with weaker to no effects from long-term drought. While the finding of significant effects from short-term drought condition on opinions about future drought is broadly consistent with previous public opinion research on climate change, the finding of water supply attitudes being more responsive to longer term drought condition is, to our knowledge, a novel result. This study more generally demonstrates the methodological feasibility and applied importance of accounting for local drought condition when public opinion information is used to evaluate outreach programs for water conservation and climate change.
The authors conducted a survey to identify conservation activity among the general populace of a midsize Southwestern community to increase our understanding of those who do and do not engage in a broad section of environmentally friendly activities. Numerous self-reported behaviors were gauged and combined to form a composite measure representing the conserving consumer. They then explored both demographic and psychosocial variables as predictors of this self-reported composite scale of conservation. The results and their implications are discussed for researchers and public policy officials.