Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Oregon
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Jones, M. S., & Niemiec, R. M. (2020). Social-psychological correlates of personal-sphere and diffusion behavior for wildscape gardening. Journal of Environmental Management, 276, 111271.


Achieving conservation outcomes requires concerted engagement from many people across diverse societies. However, many conservation practitioners struggle to engage new audiences. Research suggests one effective strategy to reach nonengaged individuals is to encourage interested conservation actors to share information, provide resources and assistance, and organize local events to recruit others; we call these “diffusion behaviors.” Previous studies suggest few conservation actors who engage in personal-sphere PEB also engage in diffusion PEB, potentially because these behaviors have unique barriers which have yet to be identified. We investigated if there are different psychosocial drivers of diffusion and personal-sphere PEB by surveying residents in Colorado, USA about their personal-sphere wildscape behaviors (e.g. planting native plants) and diffusion wildscape behaviors (e.g. helping a friend plant native plants). Including diffusion-specific psychosocial variables led to better predictions of both personal-sphere and diffusion PEB. Diffusion-specific self-efficacy, social and environmental response efficacy, and reputational concerns about perceived competence were significant predictors of diffusion behavior. Diffusion-specific environmental response efficacy and injunctive norms enforced through sanctioning significantly predicted personal-sphere behavior. Personal-sphere self-efficacy and dynamic norm beliefs predicted both behavior types. Our findings suggest that research should consider personal-sphere and diffusion PEB as distinct domains and should investigate the power of diffusion-specific perceptions. Conservation outreach programs seeking to encourage diffusion of PEB may benefit from designing programming to try to change these perceptions.