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Guided group discussion and attitude change: The roles of normative and informational influence

Journal of Environmental Psychology
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvp.2007.10.002
  • Elaboration Likelihood Model (Elm)
  • Waste Reduction
  • Sustainability
  • Lewin
  • Household Hazardous Waste (Hhw)
  • Toxic Waste
  • Nontoxic Alternatives


Abstract Kurt Lewin and others have showed that group discussion effectively changed attitudes and behaviors compared to individually targeted messages. This study examines the roles of normative and informational social influence in this effect. High school students heard a message about replacing toxic products with nontoxic alternatives; classes were randomly assigned to hear the message delivered as a lecture or via guided group discussion. For female students ( N=250 in 26 classes), HLM mediation analyses suggested normative influence predominated: Discussion was more effective than lecture and this effect was fully mediated by students’ perceptions that other students endorsed nontoxics. Content analyses of students’ comments indicated that three kinds of remarks led female students to this perception: (1) sharing knowledge about nontoxics; (2) asking questions about nontoxics; and (3) little praise for toxic products. For male students in separate HLM analyses ( N=107 in 19 of the same classes), informational influence was most apparent: Postmeeting attitudes were higher after discussion than lecture, and this effect was partially mediated by cognitive elaboration about the message (but not perceptions others endorsed the message). In addition, males’ quiz grades were higher after discussion, and students’ comments fully mediated the discussion to quiz grades relationship. Results support the importance of hearing others’ promessage comments for changing socially motivated behaviors, although the routes of influence appear to differ for these samples of male and female students.

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