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The Theory of Responsible Environmental Behavior

Adapted from Hungerford H.R. and T. Volk.1990.Changing learner behavior through environmental education. Journal of Environmental Education.21(3): 8-21.

 

The outreach program should yield impact to the target audience. The impact should not only be limited to giving information or increasing awareness but also change attitudes or behaviors.Traditional thinking believed that increasing knowledge could increase awareness or change attitudes, which in turn change behavior as depicted in figure 1.

Knowledge » Awareness or Attitude » Action

Research on environmental behavior does not support this model.  Hungerford and Volk proposed changing learner behavior through environmental education.Based on their model there are three corresponding categories of variables that contribute to behavior.These categories are entry level, ownership and empowerment variables. In each of the categories, variables are divided into major and minor variables as shown in the following table:

Entry Level Variables » Ownership Variables » Empowerment Variables » Citizenship Behavior

 

Entry Level Variables

Ownership Variables

Empowerment Variables

Major Variables:

  • Environmental Sensitivity

Major Variables

  • In-depth knowledge about issue
  • Personal investment in issues and the environment

Major Variables

  • Knowledge of and skill in using environmental action strategies
  • Locus of control (expectancy of reinforcement)
  • Intention to act
     

Minor Variables

  • Knowledge of ecology
  • Androgyny
  • Attitudes toward pollution, technology, and economics

Minor Variables

  • Knowledge of the consequences of behavior- both positive and negative
  • A personal commitment to issue resolution
     

Minor Variables

  • In-depth knowledge about issues

 

Entry-level Variables

Entry level variables are prerequisite variables or at least variables that will strengthen the decision-making. The strongest variable in this category is environmental sensitivity that is defined as "an empathetic perspective toward the environment." Androgyny, knowledge of ecology and attitude toward pollution/technology/economics are not as strong as predictors of environmental sensitivity.

 

Ownership Variables

Ownership variables are environmental issues that are important at a personal level.The variables appear to be critical to responsible environmental behavior. The two major variables in this category are in-depth knowledge of the issues and personal investment.

 

Empowerment Variables

Empowerment variables strengthen the sense that we can change and are able to solve environmental problems to make a better world.Knowledge and skill in using environmental action strategies is the best predictor of pro-environmental behavior because it brings self-confidence to help resolve environmental problems. Locus of control refers to believing in being reinforced for a certain behavior. A person with internal locus control believes that he/she will be reinforced for doing something.Intention to act is related to empowerment variables. If a person's intent is to take action, the chances of that action occurring are increased.

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