Knight Center research director Bruno Takahashi published a study titled “Sustainability behaviors among college students: an application of the Values-Belief-Norm theory ” in the journal Environmental Education Research. The study, co-authored with Knight Center faculty affiliates John Besley and Adam Zwickle, along with doctoral students Cameron Whitley and Alisa Lertpratchya, presents an analysis of survey data of over 1,500 undergraduate students at Michigan State University.
The researchers examined the effect of values, beliefs and social norms – on transportation choices, recycling, food choices, energy conservation and support for political candidates. A comparison of the five behaviors reveals that adherence to biospheric values is a consistent predictor for all behaviors measured. Social norms were also important in explaining the extent of engagement with these behaviors.
The results of the study are important to institutions of higher education that seek to motivate their students to adopt sustainable practices. The researchers suggest that communication efforts targeting students should try to influence their values or try to tailor their messages to fit with those dominant values that students hold. That could then lead to a change in social norms about the behaviors.
The study can be accessed here: