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Title: The Psychology of Water Conservation; Whether Social Pressure Can Turn a Material Resource into a Moral Responsibility
Authors: Maine, Elizabeth
Advisors: Taylor, Jordan
Department: Psychology
Class Year: 2016
Abstract: The recent California drought has illustrated how important water is while also illuminating some society members’ aversion to conserve it. Water shaming those who don’t conserve is one retaliatory response to water wasters. Other penalties have been put into place to combat wasting water. It is not clear what retaliation method is causing citizens to cutback in California, but the reduction in wasted water is evidence to action being taken. To understand what penalties are effective it must first be determined if the penalties have worked in past studies. In this study the effects of social pressure on participants’ willingness to conserve is isolated other forms of fines to see if water shaming has experimental support. Prisoner’s Dilemma games were run with four conditions (Social+NOpriming, Social+WATERpriming, noSocial+NOpriming, and noSocial+WATERpriming). The main hypothesis was that social pressure would have and effect on decisions makers choices in the game. The biggest effect would be seen in the Social+WATERpriming condition showing the efficacy of water shaming. The results showed that priming the game with a drought scenario caused participants to conserve more water however the combination of social pressure and water priming had no significant effect. This did not show that social pressure could change the social norm of water wasting, although some potential trends were identified. Across all conditions the amount of cooperation was very high. The high cooperation rates are in line the Rand and Nowak’s hypothesis that in this social world, cooperation is the automatic response to a social dilemma versus defection. This research concludes by discussing the discrepancy between people wanting to cooperate in social interactions but not cooperating when it comes to water.
Extent: 67 pages
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Psychology, 1930-2016

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