According to some studies, the positive, rewarding and restorative experiences that people have in natural environments could be one of the motivations to preserve and protect nature (Byrka, Hartig, & Kaiser, 2010; Collado & Corraliza, 2015; Hartig, Kaiser, & Strumse, 2007; Nisbet & Zelenski, 2011). Exposure to natural environments (and the obtained benefits) could influence the probability of implementing Ecological Behaviours (EBs) (Coldwell & Evans, 2017), that is those behaviours aimed at the care and protection of the environment (Hartig, Kaiser, & Bowler, 2001; Steg & Vlek, 2009). The research in this field is quite recent, and many issues are still open. Among the other, the present dissertation tries to face three main issues: the assessment of ecological behaviours, some methodological concerns about restorative effect of natural environment, and the role of other related constructs. The lack of consistency of instruments for EBs assessment makes it difficult to compare the studies and reflects a lack of consensus regarding which behaviours should actually be measured. In particular, psychologists often assess ecological behaviours with measurement instruments whose influence on the ecological system is not considered. A huge amount of studies regarding restorative experience and restorative environments are based on the assumption that the natural environments are more restorative than the urban ones. However, studies addressing this issue use a variety of research methods (concerning for example research design, measurement instruments, participants, kind of exposure to the environments) making it difficult to compare the findings and to draw conclusions. Finally, empirical evidences suggest that the effect of restorativeness on EBs is not a direct effect but is mediated by environmental attitudes (Berto & Barbiero, 2017; Byrka et al., 2010; Hartig et al., 2007; Whitburn, Linklater, & Milfont, 2019). Moreover, some authors suggest that the ability to perceive nature as a restorative environment is influenced by Connection to nature (e.g., Berto & Barbiero, 2017; Whitburn et al., 2019) that, in turn, is a requirement for action to protect nature (e.g., Berto & Barbiero, 2017; Clayton, 2012; Mayer & Frantz, 2004). Finally, some studies suggested that EBs and their antecedents (e.g., Hartig et al., 2001; Milfont, 2009; Noppers, Keizer, Bolderdijk, & Steg, 2014) could be bias by social desirability (SD) (Paulhus, 1984). However, no study has investigated all these variables in a single model. The present research intents to contribute to the study of association between restorativeness and EBs overcoming the limitations described above. First, the Pro-Environmental Behaviours Scale (PEBS; Markle, 2013) is, to our knowledge, the only scale based on an impact-oriented approach and on empirical evidence recognized by the environmental scientific community (Brower & Leon, 1999) to cover the three categories of EBs proposed by literature (Stern, 2000). For this reason, in the first study of this project we adapted the original PEBS to the Italian context (qualitative phase) and we verified its psychometric properties (e.g., factor structure) (quantitative phase). The original scale was slightly modified following a suggestion obtained in a focus group (n =17) and in a pilot study (n =18). On a sample of 765 Italian adults (70% female, mean [SD] age = 41.7 [12.2], 2 missing) results revealed a 4-factor structure (conservation, environmental citizenship, food, and transportation) of the Italian PEBS, like the original version (Markle, 2013), maintaining 15 of the 19 original items (CFI = .973; RMSEA = .037: WRMR = 1.047; χ(84)2 = 170.63, p < .001; explained variance = 42%). Other psychometrics properties were “good” or better. Results suggest that the Italian PEBS is a valid and reliable tool for assessing the principal EBs proposed by the literature as having a great impact on the environment. The second study of this project uses a meta-analysis aimed at estimating how much natural environments are perceived as being more restorative than urban environments. We investigated the role of moderator variables such as research design, kind of natural environment, participants, measurement instruments used or the context in which data were collected. PsycINFO, PsycARTICLES, Scopus, SpringerLINK, Web Of Science online databases were used to identity all peer-review articles on restorativeness published to date (k = 167). Reference sections of obtained papers were examined for additional studies. Only 22 studies met inclusion criteria (direct exposure to environment, comparison between one outdoor environment with natural element and one without natural element, and restorativeness measured by self-report scale) and were included in meta-analysis. Results showed that natural environments are perceived to be more restorative than urban environments (Cohen’s d [C.I.] = 1.99 [1.38 - 2.61]). Significant heterogeneity between studies was found (Q(19) = 503.16, p < .001) and variability within studies was very high (I2 = 97%). However, subsequent univariate moderator analyses were not significant. Other methodological differences (e.g., lighting conditions) could explain this variability. We concluded that the variability in studies is more likely to be due to individuals differences (e.g., age, connections to nature, and environmental attitude) than to methodological differences. Finally, in the third study we investigated relationship between the perceived restorativeness, the environmental attitudes, the connection to nature, and the social desirability. The first aim of this study is to cover this lack by proposing an integrated model of antecedents of EBs. The second aim is to verify if the proposed model is valid for all the different EBs’ categories proposed by literature (Stern, 2000): Conservation, Transportation, Food, and Environmental Citizenship. The model showed an excellent fit (CFI = 1.000; RMSEA = .000 [CI = .000 - .116]; SRMR = 0.031; χ(4)2 = 3.412, p = .491; explained variance = 26%) and almost all the hypotheses were confirmed: connection to nature and environmental attitudes are the only two constructs – among the ones used in the model – with a direct effect on EBs; connection to nature have also indirect effects, via perceived restorativeness and via environmental attitudes; environmental attitudes are influenced by perceived restorativeness but they do not significantly mediate the effect of restorativeness on EBs; social desirability has an indirect effect on EBs via connection to nature but it did not have a direct relationship with environmental attitude. All models with the different EBs categories as outcomes showed a good fit, however, while connection to nature is confirmed as a predictor of all the four categories of EBs, the environmental attitudes predicts only Environmental Citizenship. In sum, our model suggests that connection to nature, besides being the strongest direct predictor of EBs, it is also an important predictor of perceived restorativeness and environmental attitudes. So, studies that have investigated the indirect effect of perceived restorativeness on EBs via environmental attitudes (Byrka et al., 2011; Collado & Corraliza, 2015; Hartig et al., 2007) without considering the role of the connection to nature could have overestimated the indirect effect.

RESTORATIVENESS AND ECOLOGICAL BEHAVIOURS: From methodological issues in self-report instruments to investigation of pattern of association

Menardo Elisa
2020

Abstract

According to some studies, the positive, rewarding and restorative experiences that people have in natural environments could be one of the motivations to preserve and protect nature (Byrka, Hartig, & Kaiser, 2010; Collado & Corraliza, 2015; Hartig, Kaiser, & Strumse, 2007; Nisbet & Zelenski, 2011). Exposure to natural environments (and the obtained benefits) could influence the probability of implementing Ecological Behaviours (EBs) (Coldwell & Evans, 2017), that is those behaviours aimed at the care and protection of the environment (Hartig, Kaiser, & Bowler, 2001; Steg & Vlek, 2009). The research in this field is quite recent, and many issues are still open. Among the other, the present dissertation tries to face three main issues: the assessment of ecological behaviours, some methodological concerns about restorative effect of natural environment, and the role of other related constructs. The lack of consistency of instruments for EBs assessment makes it difficult to compare the studies and reflects a lack of consensus regarding which behaviours should actually be measured. In particular, psychologists often assess ecological behaviours with measurement instruments whose influence on the ecological system is not considered. A huge amount of studies regarding restorative experience and restorative environments are based on the assumption that the natural environments are more restorative than the urban ones. However, studies addressing this issue use a variety of research methods (concerning for example research design, measurement instruments, participants, kind of exposure to the environments) making it difficult to compare the findings and to draw conclusions. Finally, empirical evidences suggest that the effect of restorativeness on EBs is not a direct effect but is mediated by environmental attitudes (Berto & Barbiero, 2017; Byrka et al., 2010; Hartig et al., 2007; Whitburn, Linklater, & Milfont, 2019). Moreover, some authors suggest that the ability to perceive nature as a restorative environment is influenced by Connection to nature (e.g., Berto & Barbiero, 2017; Whitburn et al., 2019) that, in turn, is a requirement for action to protect nature (e.g., Berto & Barbiero, 2017; Clayton, 2012; Mayer & Frantz, 2004). Finally, some studies suggested that EBs and their antecedents (e.g., Hartig et al., 2001; Milfont, 2009; Noppers, Keizer, Bolderdijk, & Steg, 2014) could be bias by social desirability (SD) (Paulhus, 1984). However, no study has investigated all these variables in a single model. The present research intents to contribute to the study of association between restorativeness and EBs overcoming the limitations described above. First, the Pro-Environmental Behaviours Scale (PEBS; Markle, 2013) is, to our knowledge, the only scale based on an impact-oriented approach and on empirical evidence recognized by the environmental scientific community (Brower & Leon, 1999) to cover the three categories of EBs proposed by literature (Stern, 2000). For this reason, in the first study of this project we adapted the original PEBS to the Italian context (qualitative phase) and we verified its psychometric properties (e.g., factor structure) (quantitative phase). The original scale was slightly modified following a suggestion obtained in a focus group (n =17) and in a pilot study (n =18). On a sample of 765 Italian adults (70% female, mean [SD] age = 41.7 [12.2], 2 missing) results revealed a 4-factor structure (conservation, environmental citizenship, food, and transportation) of the Italian PEBS, like the original version (Markle, 2013), maintaining 15 of the 19 original items (CFI = .973; RMSEA = .037: WRMR = 1.047; χ(84)2 = 170.63, p < .001; explained variance = 42%). Other psychometrics properties were “good” or better. Results suggest that the Italian PEBS is a valid and reliable tool for assessing the principal EBs proposed by the literature as having a great impact on the environment. The second study of this project uses a meta-analysis aimed at estimating how much natural environments are perceived as being more restorative than urban environments. We investigated the role of moderator variables such as research design, kind of natural environment, participants, measurement instruments used or the context in which data were collected. PsycINFO, PsycARTICLES, Scopus, SpringerLINK, Web Of Science online databases were used to identity all peer-review articles on restorativeness published to date (k = 167). Reference sections of obtained papers were examined for additional studies. Only 22 studies met inclusion criteria (direct exposure to environment, comparison between one outdoor environment with natural element and one without natural element, and restorativeness measured by self-report scale) and were included in meta-analysis. Results showed that natural environments are perceived to be more restorative than urban environments (Cohen’s d [C.I.] = 1.99 [1.38 - 2.61]). Significant heterogeneity between studies was found (Q(19) = 503.16, p < .001) and variability within studies was very high (I2 = 97%). However, subsequent univariate moderator analyses were not significant. Other methodological differences (e.g., lighting conditions) could explain this variability. We concluded that the variability in studies is more likely to be due to individuals differences (e.g., age, connections to nature, and environmental attitude) than to methodological differences. Finally, in the third study we investigated relationship between the perceived restorativeness, the environmental attitudes, the connection to nature, and the social desirability. The first aim of this study is to cover this lack by proposing an integrated model of antecedents of EBs. The second aim is to verify if the proposed model is valid for all the different EBs’ categories proposed by literature (Stern, 2000): Conservation, Transportation, Food, and Environmental Citizenship. The model showed an excellent fit (CFI = 1.000; RMSEA = .000 [CI = .000 - .116]; SRMR = 0.031; χ(4)2 = 3.412, p = .491; explained variance = 26%) and almost all the hypotheses were confirmed: connection to nature and environmental attitudes are the only two constructs – among the ones used in the model – with a direct effect on EBs; connection to nature have also indirect effects, via perceived restorativeness and via environmental attitudes; environmental attitudes are influenced by perceived restorativeness but they do not significantly mediate the effect of restorativeness on EBs; social desirability has an indirect effect on EBs via connection to nature but it did not have a direct relationship with environmental attitude. All models with the different EBs categories as outcomes showed a good fit, however, while connection to nature is confirmed as a predictor of all the four categories of EBs, the environmental attitudes predicts only Environmental Citizenship. In sum, our model suggests that connection to nature, besides being the strongest direct predictor of EBs, it is also an important predictor of perceived restorativeness and environmental attitudes. So, studies that have investigated the indirect effect of perceived restorativeness on EBs via environmental attitudes (Byrka et al., 2011; Collado & Corraliza, 2015; Hartig et al., 2007) without considering the role of the connection to nature could have overestimated the indirect effect.
restorativeness
pro-environmental behaviour
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