Wildlife Research Wildlife Research Society
Ecology, management and conservation in natural and modified habitats
REVIEW

Conservation and human behaviour: lessons from social psychology

Freya A. V. St John A B , Gareth Edwards-Jones A and Julia P. G. Jones A

A School of Environment, Natural Resources and Geography, Bangor University, Deiniol Road, Bangor, LL57 2UW, UK.

B Corresponding author. Email: afp647@bangor.ac.uk

Wildlife Research 37(8) 658-667 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WR10032
Submitted: 19 February 2010  Accepted: 25 August 2010   Published: 22 December 2010

Abstract

Despite increased effort from non-governmental organisations, academics and governments over recent decades, several threats continue to cause species declines and even extinctions. Resource use by a growing human population is a significant driver of biodiversity loss, so conservation scientists need to be interested in the factors that motivate human behaviour. Economic models have been applied to human decision making for many years; however, humans are not financially rational beings and other characteristics of the decision maker (including attitude) and the pressure that people perceive to behave in a certain way (subjective norms) may influence decision making; these are characteristics considered by social psychologists interested in human decision making. We review social-psychology theories of behaviour and how they have been used in the context of conservation and natural-resource management. Many studies focus on general attitudes towards conservation rather than attitudes towards specific behaviours of relevance to conservation and thus have limited value in designing interventions to change specific behaviours (e.g. reduce hunting of a threatened species). By more specifically defining the behaviour of interest, and investigating attitude in the context of other social-psychological predictors of behaviour (e.g. subjective norms, the presence of facilitating factors and moral obligation), behaviours that have an impact on conservation goals will be better understood, allowing for the improved design of interventions to influence them.

Additional keywords: attitude, behaviour, decision making, parks, poaching, hunting, social norms, taboo.


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