«Annick Hedlund-de Witt Worldviews and the transformation to sustainable societies An exploration of the cultural and psychological dimensions of our ...»
For the development of the Likert-type items of step 1 and 2, variations on statements from different existing scales were used, including the Connectivity with Nature Scale, the Human and Nature Scale (HaNscale), the World Values Survey, and research in the field of sociology of religion (see Appendix I). Different statements were formulated to be logically opposite of each other, in an attempt to develop well-discriminating statements and include a wide range of responses.
Participants were invited to respond on a 7-point scale, ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree. This resulted in strongly opposing pairs of statements, stretching across the entire continuum (e.g. “I don’t feel a personal bond with nature” versus “I have a deep feeling of connectedness to nature”).
Subsequently, a measure was developed to explore sustainable behaviors in different domains: food consumption, domestic energy use, mobility, general consumer behavior, and contributions to societal change (step 3, see Appendix II). In this way, I attempt to measure a relatively wide range of environmentally relevant behaviors. Moreover, I have attempted to investigate sustainable behaviors positively, through including potential elements of positive antecedents and consequences of sustainable behaviors in the Likert-type items, as well as by measuring sustainable behaviors themselves in a more broad sense, including for example positive contributions to societal change (see e.g. the idea of a 'positive psychology of sustainability,' Corral Verdugo, 2012).
Lastly, the questionnaire was pre-tested for clarity, consistency, and shared understanding by sitting down with about ten different respondents (including some with low education levels, and of varying cultural backgrounds) and requesting them to give their responses to, and explain their interpretations of, the Likert-type-items and behavioral questions. Through this process, several statements were modified, ‘difficult’ words were taken out, and ambiguous questions were simplified. This extensive process resulted in a questionnaire consisting of 53 Likert-type items and a set of behavioral questions covering different domains in life. The questionnaire was structured into three different 121 sections, consisting of 17 till 19 items, which were alternated with a few open, and various single- and multiple-response questions exploring sustainable behaviors and opinions. The questionnaire started with a short introduction (see
Appendix II), aiming to neutrally introduce all subjects to the participants:
namely worldviews (‘your attitude towards life in general’), environmental attitudes (‘your perspective on nature in particular’), and sustainable lifestyles (sustainability). The explanation of the concept of sustainability was necessary since I use the term in the survey, and thus needed to ensure that different participants have a similar understanding of it. Since the introductory text was the same for all participants, I do not expect this explanation to inform the relationships between the different variables.
4.3.2 Participants and procedures The questionnaire was conducted between 2 and 10 March 2009 by Motivaction, a Dutch research agency, which has a panel of research respondents of about 100,000 people in the Netherlands, and years of experience with online surveys. Because online panel research is self-selective—although respondents are invited broadly, they decide whether or not to take the invitation—Motivaction uses propensity scores (Rosenbaum & Rubin, 1983) in order to correct for the non-response generated by this type of research.
Propensity scores allow the researcher to model the sample on specific reference variables in a sophisticated way, not only including socio-demographic variables but also incorporating variables such as opinion, lifestyle, and values. The response rate of the questionnaire (26%) was deliberately brought down as respondents of subgroups that are known to respond slow or incomplete are approached more frequently, with the aim of creating a more representative sample. After the fieldwork was finished, the gathered data were weighed as to correct any obliquity of the sample in comparison with the Dutch public. A weighing factor of 0.91 was used, meaning that the efficiency of the weighing was 91%. The effective sample after weighing thus consisted of 952 respondents.
In this way, the sample is made representative for the Dutch public on the 122 variables of gender, age, education, region, and value-orientation (mentalityenvironment).48 Participants in this study thus consisted of a representative sample of residents of the Netherlands, who were invited via email for participation in the research. In order to prevent a selective response, the topic of the research was not mentioned. The respondents filled in the questionnaire online. I expect that this does not substantially limit the representativity of the sample, as the Netherlands have a very high degree of internet penetration: in 2008 87 % of the households in the population under 75 years of age had access to internet at home (CBS, 2009). For filling in the complete questionnaire, respondents received a modest compensation. The age of the respondents was minimum 18 years and maximum 70 years old. The respondents consisted of 53% men and 47% women.
However, through weighing this was corrected, resulting in a sample consisting of 50.5 % men and 49.5% women.
4.3.3 Analysis To analyze the data, I used Principal component analyses to explore the items describing worldviews, as well as the items describing environmental attitudes.
In both cases, I chose an oblique rotation (Promax) because the components might be related to each other. These analyses generated five different worldview-factors, and three different environmental factors, which are respectively discussed in 4.1 and 4.2. Using the regression method, component scores were calculated for each participant, which were used for all subsequent analyses. Pearson correlation matrices were used to explore the interrelationships among the different worldviews, and among the different environmental attitudes. In 4.3 the correlations between the different worldviews, environmental attitudes, and sustainable behaviors are discussed.
To explore to what extent the environmental attitudes mediate the effect of worldview, a regression analysis was carried out (Section 4.4). I first created a sustainable lifestyles-variable, combining the positively correlating sustainable behaviors of Table 7 (9 standardized items, Cronbach’s alpha =.65). The five 48 Motivaction developed its own model for describing the different value-orientations within the Netherlands, which they call “mentality-environments.” See www.motivaction.nl for more information; this site has an English section.
4.4 Results 4.4.1 Worldviews and their interrelationships The five worldview-factors as generated with the Principal component analysis were labeled ‘Inner growth’, ‘Contemporary spirituality,’ ‘Traditional God,’ ‘Focus on money,’ and ‘Secular materialism.’ These five factors explained 46% of the total variance, almost half of which (22.1%) was explained by the first factor.
The eigenvalues before rotation ranged from 7.05 to 1.32. For an overview of the different factors see Table 4.
The Inner growth factor emphasizes the existence of an inner domain or interiority to life in general, in oneself as well as in the surrounding world, which comes to expression in references to ‘inner wealth,’ ‘feeling and intuition,’ and the intrinsic connection between human being and world. For these individuals, inner growth appears to be the primary locus of meaning in life. Moreover, a statement like ‘What we do to others, will in the end come back to ourselves’ also seems to be based on a sense of the intrinsic interconnectedness of all things, and this factor thus seems to resonate with Taylor’s description of the post-Romantic, expressive current in contemporary culture, especially in its secularized variations. At first sight, the statement ‘Human beings are in their core egocentric beings: they think mostly of themselves’ may seem inconsistent with the spirit of this factor. However, I understand this statement to reflect a critical attitude towards the state of humanity (and the world) as a whole. This seems understandable from the perspective of participants that score high on this factor, as they are among the most conscious and socially engaged individuals in society, and are thus likely to be frequently confronted with less conscious and engaged individuals around them.
124 The second factor was coined Contemporary spirituality, because it gives expression to an explicitly spiritual or divine understanding of life, yet seems to do so in a contemporary (rather than traditional) fashion, referring to an allpervasive ensouled reality, reincarnation, human beings as having a spiritual or divine core, and the universe as giving expression to a creative intelligence— which are typical contemporary spiritual ideas49 (see e.g. Campbell, 2007;
Hanegraaff, 1996; Heelas, 1996; Houtman et al., 2009). The third factor, labeled Traditional God, seems to be based on a more traditional understanding of the divine, referring to a God ‘far above life on earth,’ rejecting ‘it is pure coincidence that human life has developed on earth,’ and underscoring the traditional dualism between humanity and the rest of creation by emphasizing that the human being is ‘the only being on earth with consciousness.’ The fourth factor, Focus on money, does not seem to express a comprehensive worldview as it does not articulate an ontology, epistemology, anthropology, or societal vision, but only a particular axiology—that is, the motivation to earn money in the aspiration of having a certain (material) quality of life. The last factor was labeled Secular materialism because of its rejection of meaning (other than utilitarian, e.g. ‘I hardly ever reflect on the meaning and purpose of life’ and ‘The suffering that happens to people does not have any meaning’), its explicit mind-body dualism (‘I don’t think body and mind are closely connected’), and its scientistic epistemology (‘Science is the only source 49 These ideas are, of course, not new. Most of these ideas find their origin in the Eastern religious traditions, but have been re-interpreted in a contemporary Western context, profoundly shaped by processes of notably secularization and rationalization (Hanegraaff, 1996; Heelas, 1996). An example is the understanding of the concept of reincarnation.
Reincarnation has traditionally in the East been understood from a cyclical concept of time, coming to expression in the idea of “the wheel of rebirth.” In the contemporary spiritual context however, that same conception tends to be understood from an evolutionist and thisworldly framework, stressing the possibility of spiritual progress by learning from experience, during many lives in this and other worlds. This view on reincarnation envisions a process of progressive spiritual evolution. Moreover, generally there is little desire in the West to escape from the cycle of rebirth altogether, as there tends to be in the East, but instead a desire to experience as many lives as possible, in an endless process of growth and evolution.
Not only did this perspective emerge together with modern concepts of evolution; it is most plausibly interpreted as a direct inference from them (Hanegraaff, 1996).
Table 4: The five worldview-factors, loadings after Promax rotation Notes: The items are coded with letters that refer to Table 2: o=ontology; e=epistemology; ax=axiology;
an=anthropology; s=societal vision.
Table 5: Correlation matrix of the worldviewfactors of trustworthy knowledge’). Moreover, the statements ‘The most important thing in my life is that I enjoy myself and am happy myself’ and ‘Everybody needs to care of oneself and stand up for oneself’ seem to reflect a political/societal orientation of individualistic liberalism (see Sedgwick, 2008).
The component correlation matrix (see Table 5) shows that the first three worldview-factors tended to correlate with each other (notably Inner growth and Contemporary spirituality), while the latter two tended to correlate with each other. Moreover, the first three factors also correlated negatively with the latter two, thus suggesting that these are fairly different and somewhat opposed orientations towards reality.
4.4.2 Environmental attitudes and their interrelationships The three environmental factors were labeled ‘Connectedness with nature,’ ‘Willingness to change,’ and ‘Technological optimism.’ These three factors explained 44.4% of the total variance, of which 28.7% was explained by the first factor. The eigenvalues before rotation ranged from 6.32 to 1.30. For an overview of the different factors see Table 6.