Governments normally seek to influence or control the behavior of their citizens, as well as organizations using diverse policy tools, such as legislation, taxes, regulations, subsidies, and providing guidance material and information (Bolderdijk, Steg, Lehman, Geller, & Postmes, 2012). Governments attempt to change or influence the behavior of their citizens in order to achieve community, social and economic benefits. Regulations are usually used to curb collusive behaviors among business enterprises. Steg and Vlek (2009) consider some behaviors to be undesirable; as a result, there is the need to prevent such undesirable behaviors as crime. In addition, there are some instances where people’s behaviors do not take into account the best interests of the community. Stern (2000) stated that diverse traditional tools used to influence behavior are effective in some aspects of the public policy. However, for a few social policy problems, such as pro-environment behaviors, manipulating human behavior is extremely complex and difficult. It is worth noting that the effectiveness of traditional tools is likely to be limited without having an understanding of how to introduce cooperative behavioral change among citizens. There is a widespread consensus among researchers and scholars that communication that is capable of activating social norms is effective in creating a beneficial conduct in the society. However, the situations under which normative communication can fail and result in the opposite of what the communicator intended are not well recognized (Cialdini, Demaine, Sagarin, Barrett, Rhoads, & Winter, 2006).
According to Bolderdijk et al. (2012), there is a misguided tendency, albeit understandable, to attempt to take action against a social problem through its depiction as being regrettably frequent. For instance, information campaigns normally put an emphasis on the fact that drug and alcohol use is unbearably high, the rates of teens’ suicide are alarming, and (most pertinent to the study) polluters are spoiling the natural environment. Regardless of the fact that these claims may be well intentioned and true, the creators of these campaigns disregard something that is vital; that is, within the phrase “many individuals are engaging in the undesirable thin”, lurk the undercutting and powerful normative message that, “many individuals are engaging in this” (Goldstein et al., 2008, p. 12). Cialdini (2003) asserted that the aligning descriptive norms (what individuals normally do) together with the injunctive norms (what they either approve or disapprove) are capable of optimizing the influence of normative language. As a result, communicators who do not acknowledge the difference between the injunctive and descriptive norms jeopardize their persuasiveness of their message (Schultz, Nolan, Cialdini, Goldstein, & Griskevicius, 2007).
A number of pro-environment information campaigns and policies, such as those that persuade people not to litter, attempt to plead with people to take action through highlighting why people do not engage in conservation measures and how failing to act is likely to harm the environment. However, Steg and Vlek (2009) stated that such messages are likely to incite the opposite of what is conveyed in the message by encouraging people to engage in the activities that communicators intended to prevent. The applied research conducted in the sphere of psychology indicated that, for a message to be effective in influencing pro-environment behavior, it should depict what most people are currently doing regarding the conservation behaviors. This is because it encourages other people to engage in the conservation efforts performed by others. According to Cialdini et al. (2006), such findings draw upon research that a period of at least three decades provide crucial insights concerning the formulation of pro-environment messages that seek to influence the conservation behaviors of people. With respect to social psychology, a vast research points out that social norms are capable of guiding and spurring behavior. However, there are a few descriptive pro-environment messages and policies that highlight the pro-environment behaviors that have already been practiced by other people. A significant proportion of the pro-environment campaigns depend largely on the less-effective “save the earth” messages and awareness campaigns that seek to warn people about the severity of the environmental problem at hand (Bolderdijk et al., 2012). In order to develop effective pro-environmental messages, there is the need to have an understanding of the role that language plays in influencing people’s behavior. In this regard, this research focuses on how to be persuasive when delivering the government environmental messages.
Steg and Vlek (2009) defined pro-environment normative behaviors as behaviors that seek to benefit the natural environment through altering the availability of energy or materials from the environment or through changing the dynamics and structure of the ecosystem in a positive manner. Behaving in a manner that is pro-environment implies acting in a manner that benefits the environment, as well as other people; however, there are no direct individual benefits associated with these conservation behaviors. Steg and Vlek (2009) stated that pro-environment behaviors usually imply behaving on a normative basis, which involves acting by taking into account what is a wrong or right thing to do for the society and the environment in accordance with oneself and others. Governments try to be more persuasive when delivering their environmental policies. Steg and Vlek (2009) also explained pro-environmental behavior using normative considerations that include personal or social norms. As a result, the use of persuasive normative messages is likely to be an effective way that the government can use to deliver its environment policies in order to influence people’s behaviors. Two ways through which normative language can be used to promote pro-environment behavior are discussed in the following subsections.
Social norms refer to the traditional rules of conduct that direct how people should interact with each other. For Cialdini (2003), social norms are beliefs regarding the accepted and common behaviors for particular situations. Studies on pro-environmental behaviors and social norms point out that social norms may be a vital factor for explaining pro-environment behaviors because a social norm that is stronger is likely to result that people will behave in a manner that is pro-environment. According to the focus theory of normative conduct/behavior, social norms are capable of mobilizing decision-making processes in a particular situation, for instance, when the decisions are focal or salient. The underlying presumption is that if a person in a situation whereby he/she is unsure to act, he/she is likely to follow other people, as well as the norms of that particular situation. Steg and Vlek (2009) stated that the use of persuasive normative messages is one of ways that can be used to increase the significance of social norms. For instance, Goldstein et al. (2008) studied a local restaurant that adopted a program aimed at encouraging its guests to re-use bath towels in order to lessen electricity and water consumption. Dissimilar messages encouraging the hotels’ guests to recycle towels were formulated. According to the results by Goldstein et al. (2008), environmental messages that made the descriptive social norms salient (such as “Join your fellow citizens in helping to save the environment”) were more effective in encouraging the hotel’s guests to recycle towels when compared to the standard environmental messages. Other messages used in the study included “Help the hotel save energy” (emphasized on the hotel benefits); “Help save the environment” (emphasized the environment protection); “Partner with us to help save the environment” (emphasized environmental cooperation fulfillment); “Help save resources for future generations (emphasized the benefit for the future generations); and “Join your fellow citizens in helping save the environment” (emphasized the descriptive norm). The message that was the most successful was the descriptive norm message. It stated that the reuse of towels was the hotel, as well as guest’s norm. As a result, 41% of guests reused their towels. The message that was the least effective was the message that focused on the hotel’s benefit. As a result, 20% of guests reused their towels. The message that emphasized on environmental protection and benefits for the future generation encouraged 30% of guests to reuse their towels. The results reported by Goldstein et al. (2008) are consistent with the social psychology theory. According to the following theory, when people find themselves in a new situation, the manner in which they act is influenced by other people’s social behavior. The results also emphasized the importance of normative messages that stress on normal behavior and being cautious when accidentally making it appear like every other person is doing the undesirable behavior. An inference from this observation is that when the government tries to deliver its environment policies, it should take into consideration that pro-environment behavior is the norm and creates a perception that everyone else is behaving in a manner that is pro-environment. For such policies to be more persuasive and efficient, it is of great importance to highlight what other people are doing to save the environment.
According to Cialdini et al.’s (2006) studies on pro-environment behavior and normative message framing have mainly focused on reducing littering and the consumption of energy, as well as reuse of towels. Nonetheless, Cialdini et al. (2006) hypothesized that the results of their studies would be replicated in the cases of other conservation efforts in different contexts, such as decreasing plastic bags use. Cialdini et al. (2006) outlined the injunctive and descriptive social norms. Cialdini et al. ( 2006) defined descriptive social norms as what is normally done. For instance, 80% of people of the USA frequently reuse their plastic bags. On the other hand, injunctive social norms are defined as “what is normally approved or disapproved. For instance, 80% of the UK population believe (approve of) that it is important to reuse plastic bags (Cialdini et al., 2006). Both injunctive and descriptive social norms may be incorporated in normative messages in order to promote pro-environment behaviors among people.
An empirical study by Jacobson et al. (2011) reported on an insignificant difference between the descriptive and injunctive normative messages and their influence on pro-social behavior. The results by Jacobson et al. (2011) indicated that both descriptive (“most students have opted to stay for the full hour and complete additional surveys”) and injunctive (“most students indicated that participants ought to stay for the full hour and complete additional surveys”) normative messages were in the same way effective with respect to helping students’ behavior (p. 15). When undergraduate students were requested to help the researcher complete additional surveys, both descriptive and injunctive messages led that the same number of students decided to help. This indicates the same strength between the injunctive and descriptive normative messages with respect to influencing behavior.
Some studies showed that emphasizing what others are not doing may be an effective technique, which is commonly referred by researchers as injunctive-proscriptive messages. The injunctive proscriptive messages were tested by Winter (2005). The researcher explored the influence of such messages in encouraging visitors to remain in the established trails. The results by Winter (2005) indicate that the sign having an injunctive-proscriptive message (“Please do remain in the established paths and trails in order to save the natural vegetation”) was the most successful. This message helped 95% of visitors to remain on the established paths. The least effective message was the one that created the perception that off-trail hiking was the norm among the visitors of the park.
Nonetheless, there is evidence that indicates that placing an emphasis on descriptive social norms is not effective in encouraging conservation efforts in the situations typified by high degrees of undesirable behavior. In addition, in some cases, descriptive norms can inhibit the effect of the existing injunctive norms. For instance, Cialdini et al. (2006) reported that an injunctive normative phrase that is strong (such as “Please do not remove the wood from the natural reserve”) helped reduce petrified wood theft. The scholars noted that petrified wood was stolen by only 1.7% of visitors within the nature reserve. If this message was compared to a descriptive normative message (petrified wood was stolen by 7.9% of visitors). Thus, it is evident how severe the problem is, such as “many visitors have stolen wood from the reserve, which has changed the condition of the forest”). When there was no sign, petrified wood was stolen by only 2.9%. This indicated that focusing on an unwanted descriptive social norm is capable of even leading to a boomerang-impact. As a result, scholars placed an emphasis on the significance of the injunctive norm rather the importance of the descriptive norm in instances whereby several people are exhibiting the unwanted behavior. An inference from this observation is that, for the government environment messages to be efficient and effective, there is the need to first ascertain whether many people are exhibiting the unwanted behavior, followed by the choice of either injunctive or descriptive normative messages. If few people are exhibiting the unwanted behavior, the message can be either injunctive or descriptive normative. However, when several people are exhibiting the unwanted behavior, it would be helpful to make use of injunctive normative messages that refrain from highlighting the severity of the environmental problem to be addressed.
Personal norms should be taken into account when persuasive and effective pro-environment messages are formulated. Bolderdijk et al. (2012) defined personal norms as a person’s beliefs regarding his/her moral responsibility to behave in a particular way. As a result, personal norms represent specific standards for a person’s behavior rather than a person’s belief regarding what other people do or think. Studies revealed that personal norms have a strong impact on the pro-environmental choices, as well as behaviors, such as lessening the use of cars, purchasing eco-friendly products, and using vehicles powered by alternative fuels among others. These studies revealed that people who have a strong personal norm to behave and take action pro-environmentally are more inclined to be active pro-environmentally and make choices that are pro-environment than people with a weak personal norm.
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Cialdini (2003) hypothesized that personal norms ought to be salient in order to influence behavior. The norm activation model also emphasizes this hypothesis. In accordance with the hypothesis, behavior is primarily guided by a personal norm that has been activated. Bolderdijk et al. (2012) illustrated how personal norms can be activated using normative messages. According to Bolderdijk et al. (2012), personal norms can become salient when personal pronouns are explicitly linked to a current message (Schultz, Khazian, & Zaleski, 2008). It is presumed that, to some degree, all individuals have personal norms that are pro-environment. In this regard, personal pronouns enable individuals to relate the beliefs regarding what would be the “right thing to do” with their moral responsibility, which results in the activation of the internalized norms. As a result, the actions of an individual are likely to be consistent with his/her internalized norms. Bolderdijk et al. (2012) explored the appeal signs for free of charge tire checks. The sholars found out that a moral appeal sign reading (Are you concerned about the environment? Get your tire checked for free) led to significantly more ticket uptake for free tire checks when compared to the economic appeal (“Are you concerned about your finances? Get your tyre checked for free) and the control appeal sign (that simply read “Get your tyre checked for a free”). It should be noted that personal pronouns were related to the moral message. Simply stated, associating moral messages with a person’s self-concept is likely to make salient or activate the existing personal norms that are geared towards conservation behavior. As a result, governments can make their environment messages effective and efficient by activating peoples’ personal norms towards the adoption of conservation behaviors. Personal norms can be activated by linking moral messages to the people’s self-concept. In addition, personal pronouns should be incorporated in the message to make them more salient. For instance, a message could be represented as “Care for the environment? You have to stop plastic bags?” In this message, the moral message that has been linked to a person’s internalized norms is “Care for the environment”; this makes the person important. In addition, the personal pronoun (you) has been used to activate the personal norms associated with pro-environment behavior. It is evident that social and personal norms are effective tools than can be used to promote environment conservation behaviors. Personal and social norms can be made salient using normative persuasive messages. As a result, the injunctive and descriptive messages that favor pro-environment should be highlighted as important. The following messages are not focused only on the environmental condition. In addition, personal pronouns should be incorporated in the normative messages in order to activate personal norms that have been shown to be effective in influencing behavior.
There is empirical support indicating that the influence of normative messages is stronger in instances where there is alignment of norms. For instance, in the study on the impact of normative messages on the recycling of towels, Schultz et al. (2007) reported that 62% of guests exposed to a message that has been aligned and that emphasized (made salient) the desirable behavior by combining both injunctive and descriptive normative messages concerning to reuse their bath towels more than once in the course of their stay. The percentage (57%) was higher when compared to guests who were exposed to a message that made an emphasis only on the environment benefits associated with the re-use of towels. According to the study undertaken by Smith and Louis (2008), there is an interaction-effect between the descriptive and injunctive norms. The scholars indicated that the influence of a salient injunctive social norm was stronger when an emphasis was also placed on the descriptive norms, for signing a petition opposing the imposition of full-fees for the undergrad students. In addition, Thogersen (1996) performed three surveys and consistently reported that the influence on behavior of the combined descriptive and injunctive norms was stronger when compared to when descriptive and injunctive norms were used independently. Thus, it is evident that descriptive and normative messages are capable of influencing behavior and that their combined influence may further facilitate behavioral change. Using these findings, it can be inferred that combining both personal and injunctive normative messages to promote pro-environment behavior is effective in encouraging the adoption of conservation behaviors.
Using social psychology theories, Cialdini et al. (2006) hypothesized that combining the personal normative and injunctive messages also increases the effectiveness of the pro-environment messages. As a result, it can be argued that the activation of both personal and injunctive norms could have a stronger influence on behavior than their individual influence on behavioral change. According to Stern (2000), social norms affect behavior at a subconscious level owing to the fact that they are primarily related to the affective beliefs, whereas personal norms are capable of motivating a person to behave consciously since they are related more strongly to the cognitive beliefs. As a result, a pro-environment message that can activate both personal and injunctive norms is likely to influence a lot of people since the message can be processed by different people in a manner that personally fits them. This implies that emphasizing the personal and injunctive norms is likely to lead to the most persuasive pro-environment message.
During the early 20th century, linguists were interested in the relationships existing between the environment and language. In his article Language and Environment, Edward Sapir, an American Linguist stated that language is influenced by the speaker’s topographical and geographical surroundings. According to Sapir (1912), with regard to language speaking, which can be perceived to be symbols that represent the social and physical environment of the speaker, it is imperative to consider the environment in terms of both social and physical factors. The physical environment is made up of the geographical features, such as topography of the place (mountain, plateau, plain, valley or coast), climate (rainfall amount), flora, fauna, and mineral resources found in the region. The social environment comprises the societal factors, such as religion, ethical standards, and art among others that influence the thought and life of an individual. Sapir (1912) considered that the physical environment is represented in the language, and that only social factors influenced the development of language. For example, the mere existence of a particular plant is not sufficient to result in the development of a linguistic symbol to represent that particular plant. There is the need for the plant to be known by the members. Also, such members must have an interest in the plant prior to the language of the community being called upon to provide a reference term for this entity in the physical environment. Thus, as far as the development of language is concerned, analysis of the social environment precedes the analysis of the physical environment. There are three ways in which language can be influenced. They include with respect to its content/subject matter (vocabulary); with respect to phonetic system (the system of sounds that the language uses when words are formed; and with respect to the grammatical form (logical classifications and formal processes used in speech, formal words structure, and syntax). Sapir (1912) opined that the vocabulary of language is the element that mostly reflects the speakers’ physical environment. The vocabulary of language can be perceived as an inventory of all occupations, interests, and ideas that are paid attention to in a particular community. There are several languages with their vocabulary drawing upon the physical environment of the speakers. With respect to how this language development can be used in facilitating pro-environment behavior, it can be argued that language is not static and that the vocabulary of language expands according to such factors as interest. In this regard, environmental policy-makers are to ensure that pro-environment behaviors are incorporated in the community’s interest. The underlying observation is that vocabulary results in inferences regarding the social and physical environment of those who use the vocabulary.
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During the last few decades, a lot of researches were dedicated to exploring the language that is used in discussing the environmental issues. The following tendency led to the development of a new discipline – Ecolinguistics – during the 1990s. One of the early areas of interest was the grammatical agency. For instance, Goatly (1996) explored the level to which nominalized and passive forms were utilized in the texts in which various environmental issues were discussed. Ecolinguistics came into the fore during the 1990s. It took into consideration both social context where language is rooted and ecological context where societies are entrenched. The work entitled New Ways of Meaning: the Challenge to Applied Linguistics (1990) by Michael Halliday made linguists to take into account the consequences and the ecological context of language (Halliday, 1990). In addition, Halliday’s work sought to increase the relevance of linguistics in addressing the issues of the 21st century, particular the increasing demolition of the ecosystems. The example provided by Halliday was “economic growth”, which he illustrated the manner in which the English language has been oriented with respect to unmarked terms, such as good, tall, grow, and large. The scholar considered that these words gave economic growth a positive outlook regardless of the harmful ecological consequences. Following the initial comments by Halliday (1990), there has been significant growth in the ecolinguistics field, particular with regard to evaluating the ecological impact of a particular discourse, instead of language in general. The Language and Ecology Research Forum maintained that ecolinguistics explores how language influences the life-sustaining relationships between humans, between humans and other organisms, and between humans and the natural environment (Bradley & Bradley, 2002). Research in ecolinguistics addresses such issues as the influence on advertising discourse in promoting environmentally damaging consumption and the influence of nature poetry in promoting the respect for the natural environment.
The two primary approaches used in ecolinguistics are linguistic ecology and eco-critical discourse analysis (Fill & M?hlh?usler, 2001). Linguistic ecology refers to a simile for an ecosystem used to explain the relationships between various language forms in the world, as well as groups of people who speak diverse languages (Mufwene, 2001). Linguistic ecology emphasizes the interactions between languages and places where these languages are spoken. Also, linguistic ecology advocates for the protection of the endangered languages, which is analogous to the protection of the endangered biological species. However, some scholars, such as Stibbe (2010), claim that linguistic ecology cannot be characterized as ecolinguistics because its emphasis is on language itself rather than the influence of language on the physical and biological ecosystem. Nonetheless, other linguists maintained that separating the symbolic linguistic ecology from the field of ecolinguistics is somewhat reductionist owing to the fact that high linguistic diversity has been linked to high biological diversity (Steffensen, 2007; Selvamony & Alex, 2007). There is an association between biodiversity and linguistic diversity because the development of local ecological knowledge draws upon the diversities of the local language. Biodiversity is normally under a threat when the local language is also under a threat by a language that is more dominant. Harr?, Brockmeier, and M?hlh?usler (1999) considered linguistic ecology to be a form of ecolinguistics if the objective is to preserve the ecosystems supporting life. This is achieved through the preservation of language diversity. However, it is a form of sociolinguistics when the objective is to preserve language diversity (Harr?, Brockmeier, & M?hlh?usler, 1999; Alexander, 2009). This provides important insights concerning the role that language can play in supporting the government pro-environment policies. In this regard, the inference from this observation is that the government should make an emphasis on the use of language diversity as a means of preserving the natural environment. If diverse languages are nurtured with the aim of preserving the environment, pro-environment behaviors are likely to be entrenched in society, thus resulting in a social context that is in support of the environment policies.
On the other hand, the eco-critical discourse analysis is a type of discourse analysis that emphasizes on the analysis of texts that discuss environmental issues (Carvalho & Burgess, 2005; Goatly, 1996; Kuha, 2009). As a result, eco-critical analysis deals with any discourse that is perceived to affect the ecosystem, such as consumerist discourses, gendered discourses, and economic discourses among others. The objective of eco-critical analysis is to highlight the fundamental ideologies found in such texts. As aforementioned, Halliday (1990) played a pivotal role in founding the eco-critical discourse analysis. The scholar posed a challenge to applied linguists to tackle the concerns of the 21st century. The two primary goals of eco-critical discourse analysis include: exposing the detrimental ideologies and highlighting discursive representations that contribute to the ecologically sustainable societies. According to Alexander (2009), eco-critical discourse analysis entails, but not limited to, using critical discourse analysis to environmental texts and environmentalism. Its goal is to reveal the hidden messages and assumptions, as well as comment on the effectiveness of these messages and assumptions in accomplishing the environmental goals and objectives. In addition, Bradley and Bradley (2002) consider eco-critical discourse analysis as the theoretical framework that has been used in the recent works that are related to environmental language. For instance, Kuha (2009) scrutinized statements relating to global warming in the United States newspapers. The scholar tried to clear out whether these statements expressed global warming and its causes as a certainty or not. A monograph by Alexander (2009) scrutinized the contexts and linguistic attributes of various texts discussing the environment. Carvalho and Burgess (2005) explored how the political orientations of the UK newspapers led to different framings of global warming during the 1985-2003 period. Other studies were devoted to particular lexical terms, such as the use of the term “carbon” in the newspapers and blogs written in English; references to global warming and climate change in German, French and English web content; and representations of global warming in newspapers. The critical discourse analysis can play a pivotal role in helping governments communicate their environment policies effectively and efficiently. By examining terms relating to the environment, including their grammatical and lexical features, those preparing the message will be capable of understanding how the latter represents the environmental issue at hand and its anticipated outcomes when conveyed to the public.
Language has been considered to be an important force of socialization, a communication model, and a symbol of cultural and social identity. According to Clark (2006), there is a deep connection between language, culture, and thought of people who speak a given language. In addition, language as a sign system is not just a form a relationship between the signified and the signifier, but is also a form of an ideologically motivated system comprising signs that shape and control various social realities. Clark (2006) emphasized the social influence of language by stating that language is normally used in controlling the manner in which individuals think. For instance, it is normal for an individual wishing to express his/her superiority and authority to make use of longer words in order to impress, confuse, or even intimidate the audience. The inference from these assertions is that language can be used as a power tool in order to shape and reshape world views, beliefs, and realities. Thus, language becomes a tool for social control. Governments may exploit language to deliver their environment policies in a manner that encourages pro-environment behavior among people.
According to Chaudhry (2004), when language is used to change people’s behavior, it ought to be perceived mainly as a means of control and not as a means of communication, societal resources, or social intercourse. The proposition that language is a form of social control has elicited interest among researchers in various fields who have sought to explore the role that language and speech plays in adults and children. For instance, according to the early learning theorists, language can be used to control one’s behavior, as well as mental processes (Chaudhry, 2004). Other researchers linked language to thought and highlighted the significance of language in ordering the social environment and absorbing information from the outside world. In addition, language has been perceived to influence social life. It is considered the primary vehicle used for transmitting cultural knowledge and the basic means through which people can access the content of other people’s minds (Holtgraves, 2002).
In order to deliver environment policies effectively and efficiently, language can be used to activate the culturally shared ideas. In this context, the culturally shared ideas relate to the fact that most people care about the environment and consider environmental conservation to be more crucial than economic growth. However, there is a huge gap between caring about the environment and behaving in a pro-environmental manner. Language can be used to reduce this gap and influence pro-environmental behavior among people. According to Holtgraves (2002), successful behavioral change with respect to the public policy is complex and difficult because people are usually requested to relinquish a pleasure such as (taking long showers); going out of their way (such as using public transport); and learn a new skill (such as compositing waste). This factor increases the challenges of successfully influencing behavior. As environmental protection is a shared idea in most societies, governments should use language to activate this culturally patterned cognition. This can be achieved by matching the language used to convey a pro-environment message with culture (Spolsky, 2004). For instance, in the Chinese settings, the pro-environment policies should be communicated using the Chinese language. In the Western contexts, such messages should be communicated using the English language. The underlying argument is that pro-environment messages should be adapted to the cultural language settings because cultural values are likely to appear when languages that match the cultural contexts are used (Spolsky, 2004).
According to Verma (1998), the correctness of language can play a pivotal role in encouraging people to believe in the truth of a story. As a result, promoting pro-environment behavior requires such messages to be communicated using an apt language. It is evident that language can be used to create a desired impression on the public. For instance, in such phrases as “Everybody knows it” or “Who is not aware of this?”, the hearer is likely to be ashamed of his/her ignorance and more inclined to agree with the speaker in order to share the knowledge that other people are processing. Pro-environment messages should be crafted in a similar manner. These messages ought to make the target audience feel ashamed of their ignorance in not participating in conservation efforts. Verma (1998) stated that persuasion can be achieved using the personal character of the speaker such that when the message is conveyed. This creates an impression that the speaker is credible. To achieve this, it is imperative for communicators to “know what they are supposed to say and how to say it” (Verma, 1998, p. 103). Researchers who study attitude change found out how various speech characteristics, such as lexical diversity and speech rate, and rhetorical style elements, such as powerful/powerless speech style and language intensity, influence speakers’ credibility. The perceived credibility and effectiveness of the speaker depend on cultural conceptions concerning how a competent communicator is supposed to speak. For instance, in the Western cultures, communicators are considered competent if they speak articulately, confidently, and fluently. As a result, when communicating pro-environment messages in the Western societies, communicators must adhere to these standards. In addition, when communicators speak slowly, they can be seen as less credible and less effective. The same is observed when the message has low lexical diversity. Moreover, making use of an unsuitable crude language is likely to hurt the credibility of the communicators. Nevertheless, the expectations of the audience with respect to the communicators’ language can also be influenced by the social category of the latter. When recipients encounter a persuasive message, they attempt to determine their meaning basing on the available information, pertinent norms of speech, content of the message, and the non-verbal and verbal behaviors of communicators. As mentioned earlier, if the message conforms to the normative expectations of the community, communicators may be evaluated positively by recipients. In addition, the message that is consistent with the society’s normative expectations implies that the audience may be interested in it. However, if the message is not consistent with the normative expectations, the receptivity of the message will be reduced. The applications of this approach were highlighted in the previous section on normative messages. In addition, Mauriis and Morris (2003) pointed out that the language patterns of recipients moderate the relationship between persuasion and communicators’ language. Basing on the speech communication theory, the perceived psychological distance existing between the recipient and the communicator lessens when they both make use of the same language, which results in increased receptiveness of persuasive communication (Chaudhry, 2004).
Various ways thorough which persuasive communication can be used to increase the effectiveness of environment policies in order to encourage pro-environment behaviors were discussed in this study. Also, three approaches were paid attention to. These approaches include: encouraging pro-environment behavior by means of normative language influence; encouraging pro-environment behavior using eco-linguistics; and encouraging pro-environment behavior by using language as a social control tool. With regard to the use of normative communication, when communicating environment policies, emphasis should be placed on the fact that pro-environment behavior is the norm and create a perception that everyone else behaves in a manner that is pro-environment. In order to be more persuasive and efficient, it is of great importance to highlight in such policies what other people do to save the environment. In addition, there is the need to first ascertain whether many people exhibit the unwanted behavior, followed by the choice of either injunctive or descriptive normative messages. Also, combining both personal and injunctive normative messages to promote pro-environment behavior is effective in encouraging the adoption of conservation behaviors. When policymakers aim at using eco-linguistics to promote conservation behavior, they should take into consideration language diversity as a means of preserving the natural environment. If diverse languages are nurtured with the aim of preserving the environment, pro-environment behaviors are likely to be entrenched in society, thus resulting in a social context that is in support of the environment policies. In addition, by examining terms relating to the environment, as well as their grammatical and lexical features, those who aim at creating the message will be capable of understanding how the latter represents various environmental issues at hand and their anticipated outcomes when conveyed to the public.
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