Niemiec, R, Jones, MS, Lischka, S, Champine, V. (2021). Efficacy-based and normative interventions for facilitating the diffusion of conservation behavior through social networks Conservation Biology. 00: 1−13. https://doi.org/10.1002/cobi.13717
Research suggests that encouraging motivated residents to reach out to others in their social network is an effective strategy for increasing the scale and speed of conservation action adoption. However, little is known about how to effectively encourage large numbers of residents to reach out to others about conservation causes. We examined the influence of normative and efficacy-based messaging at motivating residents to engage in and to encourage others to participate in native plant gardening in their community. To do so, we conducted a field experiment with messages on mailings and tracked native plant vouchers used. Efficacy messages tended to be more effective than normative messages at increasing residents’ willingness to reach out to others to encourage conservation action, as indicated by a several percentage point increase in native plant voucher use by residents’ friends and neighbors. Messages sometimes had different impacts on residents based on past behaviors and perceptions related to native plant gardening. Among these subgroups, efficacy and combined efficacy and norm messages most effectively encouraged individual and collective actions, as indicated by increased voucher usage. Our findings suggest that interventions that build residents’ efficacy for engaging in a conservation behavior and for reaching out to others may be a promising path forward for outreach. However, given our results were significant at a false discovery rate cutoff of 0.25 but not 0.05, more experimental trials are needed to determine the robustness of these trends.