Drastic changes to the earth's oceans are in the news, along with a reminder that by changing their behaviors, people can potentially reverse the impact of global warming. This story in Pacific Standard suggests a way to encourage people to take actions that are pro- environment.
Two psychological scientists, Lisa Zaval and Elke Weber, tested whether people would be more pro-environment if they considered their legacy, that is, how they wanted to be remembered after they died. According to their theory, when people think about their own legacy, they also start to think about the well-being of other people in that future.
Here's how the journalist described the study conducted by Zaval and Weber:
[Half of the participants] began by writing “a short essay describing what they want to be remembered for by future generations.” They were instructed to consider “ways in which you will have a positive impact on other people, skills or knowledge you will teach others, or aspects of your personality that you would like to be remembered for.”
Members of that group spent an average of six minutes on their essay. The others skipped directly to the second part of the study, in which all participants responded to a series of statements ....
Specifically, they expressed their level of agreement or disagreement with such statements as “I am in favor of national policies and regulations that decrease fossil fuel burning, even if they increase energy and electricity costs today.” And they indicated how often they intended to perform a series of environmentally friendly behaviors over the following three months, including taking public transportation and buying “green” products.
a) This study is a simple experiment. But which kind? (Post-test only? Pretest posttest? Repeated measures? Concurrent measures?)
b) What are the variables in this experiment? List each of the variables, and identify each one as an independent or dependent variable.
c) Is the independent variable between-subjects or within subjects?
d) Here's a description of the results. Can you sketch a graph depicting what they found?
Those who had written about their legacy expressed significantly greater belief in climate change, and significantly stronger intentions to behave in Earth-friendly ways.
Like many experiments do, this one had more than one dependent variable. I particularly like this additional DV because it measures real behavior, not just self-report of green attitudes. Here's how the second dependent variable was described:
... all participants were automatically entered into a lottery to win a $10 bonus. After filling out the survey, they were given the option to donate some or all of those winnings to the environmental organization Trees for the Future. Those who had thought about their legacy gave an average of $3.34, compared to $2.31 for those who had not.
e) You could sketch a graph of this outcome, too. Usually, when a study has more than one DV, you'll need one graph per DV result.
f) Finally, the scientists were quoted making the following causal claim in the piece. Is it justified?
"Prompts that encourage people to think about how they would want to be remembered (or perhaps what they don’t want to be remembered for) may effectively promote environmental behavior.”
Apply the three causal criteria to the claim above.