Environmental mindset change in Swedish youth: from reactive to proactive : A study of environmental mindsets using focus group interview and repertory grid technique

University essay from Umeå universitet/Handelshögskolan vid Umeå universitet


Today the problem of dirty streets is often mentioned in media indicating that it is an environmental and a social problem that needs to be solved. Trash lying around destroys the city picture affecting people negatively. Moreover, unpicked trash might have some devastating consequences in terms of rats and other animals. The population segment that trashes the most is youth between 15 and 29 years old. This study was conducted in order to see whether any specific action can be undertaken to affect young people who cause most of trashing and to reduce their environmentally unfriendly behavior.

In this thesis, the aim is to see how youth who is environmentally unfriendly is different from environmentally friendly in terms of a mindset; how those who are unfriendly think about trashing today and later test different stimuli to find out their effectiveness on the thinking patterns of these individuals.

The research method consisted of two parts using a combination of qualitative and quantitative methodologies. First one was a focus group interview which was chosen as an appropriate method to elicit the stimuli with potential to change a mindset. Six stimuli in total, 3 rewards and 3 punishments were chosen to be tested. Second method was an experiment using Repertory Grid technique. This technique’s purpose is to study and describe the values and attitudes of one individual. In this paper this technique was used on two occasions. The result of the first occasion indicated the person’s current mindset toward environment. After that, the person was presented certain stimulus that had a potential to change that person’s thinking pattern and behaviour. After the introduction of the incitement, the individual was asked again to use the grid. Before-and-after results were compared to find out whether the stimulus presented was effective enough to change individual’s thinking pattern.

The study indicated that there are two different mindsets concerning environment. One is the environmental mindset of indifference and the other one is the environmental friendly mindset. However, the gap between these can be mended if those people who are indifferent are affected in a right way. The study further indicates the specific stimuli that can be applied in order eliminated or at least decrease the gap. The most effective one is the shorter distance toward the nearest trashcan. This can be implemented by putting more trashcans on the streets. Moreover, to make the gap even less it would be possible to make the trashcans more aesthetically nice to the eye. Right now they are blending in to the city picture by being grey, black or dark green. Making these look nicer, as the study indicates, can contribute to change in thinking patterns.

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