Social Norms in Outdoor Recreation: Searching for the Behavior-Condition Link

Heywood, J., & Murdock, W. (2002). Social norms in outdoor recreation: Searching for the behavior-condition link. Leisure Sciences, 24(3-4), 283-295. doi:10.1080/01490400290050745.

Social norms for encounters and setting conditions have been an important area of outdoor recreation research for the past 30 yrs. An important research assumption, based on J. Jackson's Return Potential Model (1966), has been that norms for a given behavior and norms for conditions resulting from that behavior are linked. Empirical verification of a link is needed to validate this assumption. This research combines measures of behavioral obligations and sanctions with measures of normative preferences for resulting conditions using a visual approach to study the behavior-condition link for littering and litter in urban parks. The argument is that a behavioral obligation against littering should be directly linked to no tolerance for a littered environment. A sample of 189 survey respondents (mean age 39 yrs) was used. The results suggest that littering and litter represent 2 dimensions of the normative situation. Littering was found to be a clear example of a highly crystallized and intense behavioral norm while littered conditions were clearly defined by a highly crystallized and intense condition norm. The findings generally support a link between behavioral obligations not to litter and condition preferences to see no litter.

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