A level-of-analysis issue in resource consumption and environmental behavior research: a theoretical and empirical contradiction

Bradley S. Jorgensen, Mark Boulet, Annet C. Hoek

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Behavioral theories have much to offer researchers and policy makers who seek sustainable resource management within households. However, much research on household resource consumption applies theories of the individual to understand the behavioral patterns of what are very often groups of people cohabiting in a particular dwelling. This misalignment of levels of analysis leads to erroneous empirical results and conclusions, and thereby less effective policy and management actions. We address this issue by first detailing the nature of the problem; illustrating its pervasiveness in research on resource consumption behaviors; offering some ways forward by drawing on research on group dynamics; and exploring new ways of thinking about some existing concepts in resource consumption and conservation with the goal of developing insights from a household-level perspective. We suggest that researchers seek a multi-level understanding of consumption and conservation in future research, as this could lead to theories and evidence to support group-level interventions that target behaviors in a household setting, which is likely to be more effective than existing individualistic approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110154
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Volume260
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2020

Keywords

  • Energy
  • Food waste
  • Group processes
  • Household consumption
  • Level-of-analysis
  • Water

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