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Sean Rizzo, David Mojica, Gabriela Castro, Aubrey Gehmlich
“Going Green to be Seen: Status, Reputation, and Conspicuous Conservation”, conducted
by Griskevicus, Tybur, & Bergn, suggests that the prosocial factors have a stronger effect on
behavior than the desire to conserve the environment. One of the original theories behind “Going
Green to be Seen” stipulates that when it was conducted, people did not change their lifestyles to
products that helped the environment simply because it was expensive, and not enough
information and resources were available to the public (Griskevicius, 2010). Now that the
resources and information about environmental conservation and responsibility have become
more available, there appears to be a new motive other than just supporting the welfare of the
environment. Griskevicius et al. posit that “engaging in prosocial behaviors such as
environmental conversation, for example, can build a prosocial reputation. Such individuals are
not only seen as more trustworthy, but they are more desirable as friends, allies, and romantic
partners” (pg. 393). This theory has some conceptual support in other contexts based on a study
which postulated that women would be more attracted to men if these men had a more prosocial
orientation, suggesting that in the first place there is a strong connection between conformity to
social pressures and many other aspects of human living (Jensen-Campbell, Graziano, & West,
Another theory behind “Going Green to be Seen” is the idea of competitive altruism. In a
study conducted by G. Roberts in 1998, it is explained that not only does individual generosity
factor into altruism, but the people that surround us also affect it. The research suggests that
people want to compete to appear more altruistic, or at least as altruistic, as the people that they
are surrounded by, highlighting the potential importance of social motivations when it comes to
environmental stewardship. In a study pertaining to the environmental conservation behaviors of
a community, it is found that explaining average energy saving levels in a neighborhood
pressured people into working towards meeting that average, which suggests the potential for
there to be a social pressure to “keep up with the Joneses” even in the context of environmental
concerns (Schultz, 2007). In another study regarding philanthropy, the research suggests that
individual differences in social value orientation are predictive of various donations (Van Lange,
2010). This study was crucial in justifying “Going Green to be Seen” because it confirms that
prosocial people engaged in more donations than individualists and other social orientations,
implying motives that are more socially oriented and less altruistic.
A final theory that had a major impact on the original study was the costly signal theory
of altruism, which is mentioned explicitly throughout the original introduction. This theory
stipulates that there are individual differences in altruism and when forming alliances there is
competition for moral and cooperative partners. The individual differences reveal themselves in
altruism by characterizing it as a costly signal which means that people who can afford to help
others than themselves have better resources and can “signal self-control, strength of character,
or even intelligence” (Van Vugt, 2007). As a result, it becomes an incentive for a competitively
altruistic person to seek an audience, and they will act more altruistic when there is an audience.
There is even more research conducted independently from the original study which
supports the theory of prosocial pressures not only being a significant force behind decisionmaking, but that it is a potentially dominating one. A study conducted at the same time as the
original regarding the influence of social forces on the decision making of football referees found
that referees are often biased toward the home team of the game they officiate, implicating the
crowd as a powerful social pressure (Dohmen 2008). This study begs the question that if there is
already a strong motivation to remain objective and there are still significant social pressures at
play, how much more of an effect is there on people without this motivation? Another study
conducted at the same time and by one of the same researchers as the original explores the
prosocial environmental conservation behaviors of hotel tenants and found that, consistent with
our hypothesis, people responded with more environmental conservation behavior to prosocial
cues (Goldstein 2008).
The original hypothesis of the section pertaining to our replication of “Going Green to be
Seen”, experiment 1, is “that activating status motives should increase the likelihood of choosing
the less luxurious and more prosocial green products” (Griskevicius, 2010). Our purpose in
replicating the study is to not only see how well the results generalize, but also as a result of our
sampling to find how well the results generalize. Our hypothesis mirrors the hypothesis of the
original study: that the motive for consumption of “green” products stems from prosocial reasons
rather than from the altruistic reasoning of environmental conservation.
Dohmen, T. J. (2008). The influence of social forces: Evidence from the behavior of football
referees. Economic inquiry, 46(3), 411-424.
Goldstein, N. J., Cialdini, R. B., & Griskevicius, V. (2008). A room with a viewpoint: Using
social norms to motivate environmental conservation in hotels. Journal of Consumer
Research, 35, 472–482.
Griskevicius, V., Tybur, J. M., & Van den Bergh, B. (2010). Going green to be seen: status,
reputation, and conspicuous conservation. Journal of personality and social psychology,
98(3), 392.
Jensen-Campbell, L. A., Graziano, W. G., & West, S. G. (1995). Dominance, prosocial
orientation, and female preferences: Do nice guys really finish last?. Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology, 68(3), 427.
Roberts, G. (1998). Competitive altruism: from reciprocity to the handicap principle.
Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 265(1394), 427-431.
Schultz, P. W., Nolan, J. M., Cialdini, R. B., Goldstein, N. J., & Griskevicius, V. (2007). The
constructive, destructive, and reconstructive power of social norms. Psychological
science, 18(5), 429-434.
Van Lange, P. A., Bekkers, R., Schuyt, T. N., & Vugt, M. V. (2007). From games to giving:
Social value orientation predicts donations to noble causes. Basic and Applied Social
Psychology, 29(4), 375-384.
Van Vugt, M., Roberts, G., & Hardy, C. (2007). Competitive altruism: Development of
reputation-based cooperation in groups. In R. Dunbar and L. Barrett (Eds.), Handbook of
evolutionary psychology (pp. 531-540). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.