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Comparing the social psychological drivers of personal sphere, social diffusion, and civic action behaviors for native plant gardening


Protecting biodiversity and conserving water, especially in urban environments, are crucial facets of conservation efforts that can be supported by gardening with native plant species. However, native plant gardening at the individual or personal sphere level is not enough. There is also a need for citizens to participate in behaviors outside of the personal sphere, such as social diffusion and civic action, to influence the networks and social systems in which they are embedded to achieve more rapid, large-scale environmental change. Little is known, however, about whether the social-psychological drivers of behaviors outside of the personal sphere are distinct from the drivers of personal sphere action. To address this, we examined the factors influencing personal sphere, social diffusion, and civic action behaviors in the context of native plant gardening in the United States. Through a nationwide survey conducted in February 2023 (n = 1,201), we found that, while there was some overlap, each behavior type was motivated by distinct, often behavior-specific, variables. Personal sphere-specific self-efficacy and age predicted personal sphere behavior; social diffusion-specific dynamic norms (perceptions that the behavior of others is changing) and moral exporting (an individual's inclination to encourage others to embrace their moral position) predicted social diffusion behavior; introversion predicted civic action behavior; and behavior-specific personal norms predicted all three behavior types. We also examined the prevalence of each type of behavior and found that personal sphere behaviors are the most commonly practiced, followed by social diffusion behaviors and then civic action behaviors. Our findings suggest that to motivate social diffusion and civic action behaviors, practitioners may have to design outreach interventions that target the unique social-psychological drivers of these behaviors.


2023 Summer.
Includes bibliographical references.

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civic action
pro-environmental behavior
US representative survey
native plant gardening
biodiversity conservation
social diffusion


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