No Cause is an Island: How People are Influenced by Values Regardless of the Cause
Source: Common Cause Foundation
Author(s): Tom Crompton, Netta Weinstein, Bec Sanderson, Tim Kasser, Greg Maio, Spencer Henderson
Public concern is crucial to the success of action on social and environmental causes. Neither government nor business can respond adequately to today’s profound social and environmental challenges without experiencing far wider public acceptance of the need for ambitious change, and far more vocal public demand for such change. It is crucial, therefore, that organisations working to help advance these causes understand the factors that serve to shape public concern.
A large and growing body of evidence from social psychology points to the importance of values in motivating people to offer their support to such causes. This report, presenting new research findings, contributes to this understanding in four ways.
First, the research provides further evidence that the values that are communicated to an audience in the course of drawing attention to particular social or environmental causes are of importance in shaping this audience’s intention to engage in various forms of civic action to support these causes – writing to an elected representative, joining a public meeting or volunteering. The results show that messages about environmental or disability causes framed through appeal to intrinsic and self-transcendent values – that is, through the use of messages that invoke concerns about values such as social justice, equality, freedom to choose or unity with nature – perform better in strengthening support for both environmental and disability causes than messages framed to appeal to extrinsic and self-enhancing values – such as wealth or success.
Second, the results show that messages that combined both intrinsic, self- transcendent values and extrinsic, self-enhancing values are every bit as ineffective as texts that advanced the extrinsic arguments alone. In other words, from the point of view of motivating expressions of concern about social or environmental issues, it seems that it’s important to appeal to intrinsic, self- transcendence values while avoiding appeals to extrinsic, self-enhancement values.
Third, the results show that the first and second points outlined above are true regardless of the values that a person holds to be important. That is, even participants who were relatively more disposed toward self-enhancement values were more likely to report an intention to take action to help address problems associated with disability or the environment when presented with an intrinsic, self-transcendence message about disability or the environment than when presented with an extrinsic, self-enhancement message. In other words, it seems that messages invoking intrinsic, self-transcendence values are the most effective, regardless of how important a person holds these values to be. This result presents a further challenge to the ‘values matching’ strategy that is still advocated by some marketing consultancies and campaign groups.
Fourth, the results show that the values reflected in a message about the work of one organisation (WWF or Scope) have a significant influence on an audience’s intention to help an organisation working on a very different cause (disability in the case of a message about the work of WWF; environment in the case of a message about the work of Scope).
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