Planned Behavior and "Local" Norms: An Analysis of the Space-Based Aspects of Normative Ecological Behavior

Carrus, G., Bonnes, M., Fornara, F., Passafaro, P., & Tronu, G. (2009). Planned behavior and "local" norms: An analysis of the space-based aspects of normative ecological behavior. Cognitive Processing, 10(Suppl2), S198-S200. doi:10.1007/s10339-009-0292-9.

The role of spatial proximity in the construction of social norms is explored in the domain of ecological behaviour. An extended version of the theory of planned behaviour (TPB) is used to predict intentions to recycle household waste. The aim was to assess the role of different kinds of social norms within the TPB model: injunctive norms, descriptive norms, group norms and local norms. Local norms refer to the normative influence people can exert on others by crossing, occupying or living in the same spatial context. Observing spatially proximal other’s behaviour might prime and activate individual voluntary choices. This idea can be traced back to the early beginning of experimental and social psychology, as in W. James principle of ideomotor action. We argue here that this spatial normative influence should occur in the case of behaviours having collective implications (such as recycling household waste). The TPB should then work better if including also measures of local norms at different spatial scales (perceived behaviour of neighbours, inhabitants of the residential area, and inhabitants of the city). Four hundred and fifty-two participants filled in a questionnaire measuring the original TPB variables—attitudes (injunctive) subjective norms, perceived behavioural control, behavioural intentions—plus descriptive subjective norms and both descriptive and injunctive local norms. The results confirm the distinction between local and subjective norms showing their independent effects on ecological behavioural intentions. The spatial aspects involved in human cognition and action and the distinction of spatial local norms from other sources of normative influence are discussed.

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