Social Meaning and Social Context of Environmentally-Relevant Behavior: Shopping, Wrapping, and Disposing

Hormuth, S. E. (1999). Social meaning and social context of environmentally-relevant behavior: Shopping, wrapping, and disposing. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 19, 3, 277-286.

Presents an eco-psychological approach to environmentally-relevant behavior, taking into account the person-environment relationship, its social and physical elements, and the social and psychological function and meaning of objects. Results of studies concerning environmental attitudes and shopping, the psychological functions of packaging and wrapping, the willingness to buy used products, and the separation and recycling of trash are presented to illustrate this social-ecological approach to environmental behavior and the ways products affect the environment over their lifecycle. Findings from the studies indicate that environmentally related attitudes influence shopping decisions if environmentally relevant aspects of products are clearly recognizable. However, even elaborate wrapping is accepted, despite its potentially negative environmental impact if such wrapping fulfills a social function. The willingness to buy used products depends not only on price and the shopping situation, but also on some social and psychological meanings of things. Physical settings and social structures that allow for social exchange and the establishment of social norms were better predictors of compliance with recycling rules than environmentally-related individual attitudes.

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