Communicating across the urban-rural divide: How identity influences responses to sustainable land use campaigns.

Daniel Healy (2008). Communicating across the urban-rural divide: How identity influences responses to sustainable land use campaigns. PhD Thesis, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland.

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Author Daniel Healy
Thesis Title Communicating across the urban-rural divide: How identity influences responses to sustainable land use campaigns.
School, Centre or Institute School of Psychology
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2008-12
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Matthew Hornsey
Deborah Terry
Total pages 196
Total black and white pages 196
Subjects 17 Psychology and Cognitive Sciences
Abstract/Summary In recent years it has become widely accepted that the natural systems on which we depend for survival are being degraded by human activity. It is no longer a question of if we need to reduce our impact upon the planet, but of the extent to which we need to change our behaviour, and how soon we need to act. Such change will depend upon the support of voters, governments, and the international community and will require wide spread changes in attitudes and behaviour. Using the social identity approach as a framework, the current programme of research focuses on rural land users in Australia and the effectiveness of sustainable land use campaigns directed at them from both urban and rural sources. The studies provide a novel contribution to the area by demonstrating the effects of intergroup threat on group-based communication, in particular, the perception of threat to rural identity and the effect on urban and rural messages aimed at changing land use behaviour. Conclusions about broader social influence processes were also made by assessing rural participants’ perceptions of the degree to which others are influenced. Although the studies are based in the context of rural Australian land users, the results and theoretical implications can be applied to any situation wherein one group is attempting to change the attitudes and behaviours of another group. This could range from local interest groups trying to convince each other of the merits of their ideas through to political parties and nations calling for united and decisive action on global issues. Such groups ignore issues of power and status at the risk of ineffective communications or even a backlash in opinion and behaviour. Six studies were conducted, including five survey studies with rural landholders and one experiment with students at a rural campus. Study 1 (N = 251) was an evaluation of sustainable land use campaigns in general, comparing those from urban sources to those from rural sources. Study 2 (N = 585) extended this by assessing the moderating role of intergroup threat perceptions. This study also measured the perceptions of influence of urban and rural messages on urban people and other rural people. Study 3 (N = 98) assessed the influence of an actual land use campaign delivered by an ingroup source on individuals’ attitudes and behaviours and the perceived influence on others. Study 4 (N = 249) built upon Study 2 but included additional measures to address some of the inconsistencies between Studies 1 and 2. To address the psychological underpinnings of group-based influence, Study 5 (N = 124) included measures of trust in urban and rural sources as well as reports of influence, agreement, and past behaviour. To conclude, Study 6 (N = 64) provided an experimental test of persuasion by manipulating the source of the message. Self-reported identification and intergroup threat were examined as moderators of group-based persuasion. Furthermore, attributions of constructiveness were explored as a possible reason for the superior influence of ingroups. Across the six studies it was found that ingroup messages were consistently more influential than outgroup messages. Attributions of trust and constructiveness helped to explain the superior influence of ingroups. In terms of perceptions of influence on others, there was a third-person effect for urban messages but rural people did not differentiate between themselves and other rural people in response to rural messages. Furthermore, rural identification was associated with greater reported influence from the ingroup source and perceived threat was associated with increased influence of rural messages compared to urban messages. These findings have clear implications for attempts at changing attitudes between groups, particularly where there is a salient and competitive intergroup context. Outgroups operate at a distinct disadvantage in delivering persuasive communications, especially if ingroup identification is high or there is a perception of threat stemming from the communicating group. Evidence of the persuasiveness of ingroups compared to outgroups is further strengthened by the perceptions of similarity in influence of rural sources for self and other ingroup members. The findings on trust and constructiveness hint at the possibility of overcoming barriers to outgroup persuasion if positive motives for the messages can be established. Of course, this depends on the severity of the intergroup context and the nature of communication. Recommendations are made for a collaborative approach to achieving change.
Keyword Persuasion
Intergroup Relations
sustainable land use
urban-rural divide

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