Understanding the psychology of unsustainability: Linking materialism, authoritarianism, attitudes toward gender and the environment, and behavior

2007 2007

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Abstract (summary)

A feature of materialistic values is their implicit incorporation of a hierarchical structure of naturalized, social differences, sustained primarily by an emphasis on social comparisons. It is hypothesized that people who hold these values will be more likely to express attitudes that encourage maintenance of a hierarchical distribution of power and resources, specifically authoritarian attitudes, than people who do not have materialistic values. In turn, these conventional, authority subservient attitudes will correlate positively with traditional gender and environmental attitudes, expressed behaviorally as a lack of engagement in pro-environmental behaviors. A model is proposed in which right wing authoritarianism partially mediates the relationship between materialistic values and support for traditional gender roles, lack of support for ecocentric attitudes, and lack of engagement in pro-environmental behaviors. I tested this model in two adult samples. Study 1, a survey of a sample drawn from the general population in Buenos Aires, Argentina, confirmed the partial mediation model among attitudes, though not for behavior. Study 2, a survey of alumnae of the Radcliffe Class of 1964, confirmed most of the attitude relationships but the data did not support the partial mediation model, as there was no relationship between support for material values and authoritarianism in this sample. Two types of environmental behavior were assessed, every day behaviors in Study 1 and political activism in Study 2 and the relationships between behaviors and attitudes varied. Material values were related to both everyday behaviors and activist environmental behaviors. However, ecocentric attitudes that were predicted to be related to both kinds of behavior were only related to activist behavior. Lastly, social context, related to resources and status, proved to be an important factor in a person's connecting hierarchical attitudes and values. In both studies, the data from participants with higher resources and/or status, expressed in terms of male gender, high income, and university education, confirmed the partial mediation model and revealed far more significant relationships among the variables under study than did their lower status/resource peers.

Indexing (details)

Womens studies;
Environmental science
0453: Womens studies
0625: Personality
0768: Environmental science
Identifier / keyword
Health and environmental sciences; Social sciences; Psychology; Argentina; Authoritarianism; Ecofeminism; Environmental psychology; Gender; Materialism; Unsustainability
Understanding the psychology of unsustainability: Linking materialism, authoritarianism, attitudes toward gender and the environment, and behavior
McDermott, Christa
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-B 68/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Stewart, Abigail J.
University of Michigan
University location
United States -- Michigan
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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