Communicating bigger-than-self problems to extrinsically-oriented audiences

Source: Common Cause Foundation

Author(s): Paul Chilton, Tom Crompton, Tim Kasser, Greg Maio, Alex Nolan

Year: 2012


This report presents an overview of the results of research conducted with a pool of volunteers from Cardiff, Wales, for whom extrinsic (or more materialistic) values were held to be particularly important by comparison to the UK population at large. This research focused on the effects of asking participants in the study to reflect for a few minutes on why either intrinsic values (‘acceptance’, ‘affiliation’ or ‘being broadminded’) were of importance to them, or – in the case of a second group of participants – why extrinsic values (‘popularity’, ‘preserving public image’ or ‘wealth’) were important to them. Participants were then interviewed about a range of ‘bigger-than-self’ problems (including, for example, climate change and child poverty in the UK). These interviews were recorded, transcribed and analysed.

Although all the participants in the study had been selected because they held extrinsic values to be more important, we found marked differences between, on the one hand, the way in which participants who had been asked to reflect upon extrinsic values spoke about bigger-than-self problems, and, on the other, the way in which participants who had been asked to reflect upon intrinsic values spoke about these problems. Compared to those primed with extrinsic values, participants primed with intrinsic values spoke about social and environmental challenges in ways that conveyed a stronger sense of moral duty, and a greater obligation to act to help meet these challenges.

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