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The ‘Exploring catalyst behaviours’ project continues Defra’s programme of research designed to develop a deeper understanding of pro-environmental behaviour. The research, conducted by Brook Lyndhurst, Dr Julie Barnett of the University of Surrey and Dr Christine Thomas of the Open University, feeds into the body of evidence that is guiding Defra and other stakeholders in developing policy, communications and other interventions to galvanise public action on the environment.
The aim of the project was to investigate the idea that performing certain pro-environmental behaviours can have a knock on (or ‘catalyst’) effect and lead to the adoption of a broader range of pro-environmental behaviours.
The project explored the following research questions through desk research and a pilot exercise of original qualitative fieldwork:
(i) Is there plausible evidence that catalyst based behaviour change occurs?
(ii) If it is observed, how has causality been demonstrated? (i.e. how can we be sure that correlated behaviours are related at a motivational/cognitive/other level?)
(iii) How does the process or mechanism work (including psychological and sociological factors)?
(iv) Under what conditions does catalyst based behaviour change occur? Do catalyst effects occur generally, or do they occur for some very specific behaviours, or audiences, or in very specific settings?
(v) How wide are the spillovers? Do they cut-across apparently dissimilar behaviours or are they confined to sets of behaviours that are mentally categorised in the same way?
(vi) How can the process be stimulated?
Additional project aims included testing the pilot method as a means of exploring catalyst behaviours and behaviour change; and bringing together the evidence to formulate research questions and hypotheses for further research.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherDepartment of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Commissioning bodyDepartment for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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