1 Tahrcountry Musings: Conservation and Social Psychology

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Conservation and Social Psychology

Conservation is passing through a flux. Inexorable effects of globalisation and burgeoning population have added new dimensions to the threats facing the species. Species continues to decline at alarming rate and even extinction is staring in the face of many species. Resources are being depleted at never before rate and this is the germane factor of decline amidst many imponderables affecting the survival of species. Gone are the days when wildlife conservation can be viewed in isolation. It has biological social and political connotations that are inextricably enmeshed in its practice.

It is against backdrop of things enumerated above that a recent paper titled Conservation and human behaviour: lessons from social psychology by Freya A. V. St John, Gareth Edwards-Jones and Julia P. G. Jones from School of Environment, Natural Resources and Geography, Bangor University, UK, published in the journal Wildlife Research assumes great significance. The authors say resource use by a growing human population is a significant driver of biodiversity loss, so conservation scientists and managers need to look in to the factors that motivate human behaviour. These characteristics t are considered and avidly followed by social psychologists interested in human decision making. Even though we have inducted the services of social scientists in the eco-development programmes of our wildlife reserves this new suggestion is indeed breaking new ground. It is worth serious consideration by our policy makers.

In this must read paper for wildlife biologists and managers the authors have reviewed social-psychology theories of behaviour and how they have been used in the context of conservation and natural-resource management. There are several studies that focus on general attitudes of community and individuals towards conservation. What they lack is a thrust on the attitudes towards specific behaviours that are of relevance to conservation. They thus fail to help us in giving a tool in designing interventions to change specific behaviors. It is these specifics that are needed to formulate strategies for changing specific behaviors

The authors contend that what is needed is more specific and exacting defining of the behaviour of interest ,which in turn should lead to investigating the attitude in the context of other social-psychological predictors of behavior like subjective norms, the presence of facilitating factors and moral obligation. Thus we can zoom in on the behaviours that have an impact on conservation goals allowing us to devise improved design of interventions to influence the behaviour.

Conservation and human behaviour: lessons from social psychology

Freya A. V. St John , Gareth Edwards-Jones  and Julia P. G. Jones 
journal Wildlife Research 

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