Student: Victoria Volk (Honors Thesis Student, Specialization in Consumer Behavior)
Supervisor: Dr. Mark Cleveland, Dancap Private Equity Professor in Consumer Behavior
Thesis Title: Environmental Locus of Control, Pro-environmental Behaviors, and Mediating Enablers and Constraints
Thesis defense: May 2014.
Thesis abstract: The billions of consumption decisions made by consumers around the world every day cumulatively have a substantial effect on the state of the environment. Consequently, the best way to address damages to the environment and slow their progression lies in changing human behavior. The extant literature demonstrates that increased knowledge about proenvironmental initiatives and options is necessary, but insufficient for bringing about lasting change; that consumers need to accept personal responsibility for environmental degradation and recognize when they can empower themselves for making these changes. Building upon the concept of Environmental Locus of Control (ELOC)--which refers to a person’s belief in their ability to change the environment, and likelihood of performing pro-environmental behavior—my thesis examines the intervening role played by enabling and constraining factors, which are further classified along a continuum of objective and subjective (i.e., real and perceived enablers and constraints, respectively). Based on a review of the literature, measures for objective enablers/constraints and subjective enablers/constraints are developed. These are combined with existing scales for ELOC, which consists of 3 superordinate dimensions of Internal ELOC (itself containing 4 dimensions reflecting personal attributions and ability to effectuate change: green consumer, recycling attitudes, activism and advocacy), External ELOC: Powerful Others (reflecting two facets; namely the responsibilities and abilities of corporations and government actors regarding environmental outcomes), and External ELOC: Chance or Fate (consisting of individual’s attributions/beliefs of the state of the environment to the natural cycle of the earth, and/or to God/higher-power). Finally, measures for social desirability bias, demographics, and a large number of proenvironmental behaviors, are also included. Analyses revealed significant correlations between internal ELOC and both subjective and objective enablers, as well as objective constraints. Internal ELOC and subjective constraints were not significantly correlated. External ELOC was not significantly correlated with any enabling mediators, however was positively related to constraints. The novel measures were also able to explain a number of PEBs, both on their own and in conjunction with ELOC factors.
On the thesis experience: “I am so happy that I made the decision to pursue an undergraduate thesis in consumer behavior. I was able to develop a more thorough understanding of this field than lectures alone could provide and was able to choose an area of research that I found interesting. This was also a great opportunity to work one-on-one with a professor. Professor Cleveland was able to provide background information on my research topic and guide me along the steps to completing my thesis.” (Victoria Volk, May 2014).