Myers, Jr. O. E., Beringer, A. (under review). College age intellectual and identity development from a from conservation psychology perspective: Implications of theory and findings for post-secondary sustainability education. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education.

Purpose -- To demonstrate the importance of psychological theory and empirical findings to sustainability education and pedagogy at the higher education level.

Design/methodology/approach -- Presentation of psychological theory and its applicability to sustainability education. Presentation of data on the Measure of Intellectual Development (MID) which assesses Perry developmental positions. Presentation of qualitative data on student identity development, associated with two innovative pedagogies (at Huxley College of the Environment, and University of Prince Edward Island), one a case-based approach,  the other a transdisciplinary project-based campus sustainability "apprenticeship" course approach.

Findings – Students’ MID scores showed a trend toward more complex thinking in the case-based courses (N=154), as conceptualized in the Perry scheme. Qualitative data from students in the campus sustainability apprenticeship courses (one in Canada, one in the U.S.) showed the identity of "learner" blending with that of "change agent," a greater sense of identity in relation to the campus community and the sustainability movement, and a sense of empowerment backed up by practical skills.

Practical implications -- Sustainability poses a new challenge for intellectual-moral development and identity development. Psychological theory gives insights into how innovative pedagogies (such as transdisciplinary ones) should be designed to challenge students just beyond their level of development, to expose them to alternatives including advocacy and activist ones, and to support their commitment to novel sustainability identities.

Originality/value -- Psychological theory and findings have seldom been used in sustainability education scholarship; this paper uses them to demonstrate gains and reveal the internal changes students undergo as they participate in innovative pedagogies.


Myers, Jr. O. E., Hagen, D., Russo, A., McMullin, C., Lembrick A., Silbaugh, B.  Parker, K. (2006). Benefits of a campus transit pass: A study of students' willingness-to-pay for a proposed mandatory transit pass program. Transportation Research Record, Journal of the Transportation Research Board, No. 1971, 133-139.

The problem of estimating the expected net benefits of an unlimited access campus transit pass, which would also fund an increase in critically needed services, is an example of the problem of estimating the value of a public good. A referendum-format contingent valuation survey was used to measure willingness-to-pay for a mandatory transit pass by students at Western Washington University. Responses by 935 students (a 44.7% response rate) were analyzed using censored logistic regression and revealed a mean willingness-to-pay of $32.08 per quarter (corrected for estimated self-selection bias) for the proposed program. The program could actually be provided by contract with the local transit agency for $20 per student per quarter. Thus the estimated net benefit per student per quarter is $12.59, or $428,624 across the campus population. On-campus residents and those and those who commute via bus or bicycle showed higher willingness to pay.  Willingness to pay was substantially lower for those who live more than 10 miles from campus.  Frequencies of "yes" votes showed majorities supporting the pass up to the $35 per quarter fee level, and strong majorities up to the $20 level, suggesting the proposal would be easily passed by a student vote. Content analysis of reasons given for support, lack of it, or indecision showed that students were persuaded by nighttime bus service, safety, monetary savings, and environmental benefits. Doubts were raised by the mandatory nature of the proposed fee, services not meeting needs, and opposition to more student fees.


Dear, C. & Myers, Jr. O. E. (2005). Recreationists' Understanding of Subsistence in Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve, Alaska. Society and Natural Resources 18: 821-837.

The role of past and present subsistence cultures and activities in Wilderness and other strictly protected areas has sparked contentious debate about meanings associated with Wilderness.  To inform this debate empirically, recreationists were interviewed at Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve (GAAR) in Alaska to determine how they cognitively structure potential conflicts between the Park’s management mandates to provide for wilderness recreational experiences and to allow for subsistence uses. Using structural developmental theory as a framework and by employing semi-structured, in-depth interviews with hypothetical scenarios, it was found that a large majority of respondents maintained conflicting moral judgments when subsistence and wilderness values were juxtaposed.  This suggests the existence of cognitive disequilibrium around these sets of values. Respondents coordinated their conflicting judgments in ways that can be described as overriding, contradictory, and contextual. No respondent hierarchically integrated subsistence and wilderness values within one coherent conceptual structure. Implications are discussed.

  Myers, Jr. O. E., Saunders, C. & Birjulin, A. (2004). Emotional Dimensions of Watching zoo animals: An experience sampling study building on insights from psychology. Curator 47(3): 299-321. There is little research about how visitors to zoos and aquariums respond emotionally to the animals they experience. The research that does exist has seldom been informed by current psychological literature on affect, which examines the nature and roles of sentiments, moods, emotions and affective traits.  Emotion is multi-dimensional: it focuses on a person's core goals; directs attention and interest; arousing the body for action; and integrating social group and cultural factors.  It is thus a central component of meaning-making.  This article provides an overview of the literature on emotion as it applies to human emotional responses to animals. Informed by this literature, this paper presents results from a research study conducted at a zoo.  Subjects (279 adults) were each electronically paged once while viewing one of three zoo animals (snake, okapi, and gorilla).  They then completed scales on 17 specific emotions, seven items measuring evaluation and arousal, and other scales and responses to the animal.  Four patterns of emotions emerged, ranging from "equal opportunity" to "highly selective" emotions. The variables that were most important in influencing emotions were not demographic ones, but the kind of animal, subjects' emotionality, relation to the animal, and other items predicted by emotion theory.  Implications for biophilia, conservation, and the study of emotional responses to animals are discussed.
  Myers, Jr. O. E., Saunders, C. D. & Garrett, E. (2004). What do children think animals need? Developmental trends. Environmental Education Research 10(4). Understanding how children think about the needs of animals may aid bridging from how they care about individual animals to caring about the environment more generally.  This study explored changes with age in children's conceptions of animals’ needs, including how such conceptions may extend beyond the individual animal to larger systems and conservation. During attendance at a North American zoo, 171 children between the ages of 4 and 14 years were interviewed and did drawings in response to questions about the needs of a favorite animal. The results reported here focus on developmental patterns. Animals' basic physiological needs were grasped at an early age. Understanding ecological and conservation needs showed the strongest developmental trends across the full age range, with some children showing early proficiency in ecological, but not conservation, concepts. Conservation and ecological thinking appeared to follow different trajectories, especially through middle childhood, when other dimensions than knowledge may cause increases in conservation conceptions. Educational implications include building on interest in individual animals; not underestimating even young children's ability to assemble ecological facts around an animal; emphasizing concrete ecological connections; and highlighting animals that children experience in their own lives. Considering the needs of animals offers a developmentally pre-potent way to increase how children know and value multiple levels of biological organization.
  Myers, Jr. O. E. & Russell, A. (2004). Human identity in relation to wild Black bears: A natural-social ecology of subjective creatures. In S. Clayton & S. Opotow (Eds.), Identity and the natural environment (pp. 67-90). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. The experiences and identities of people with uncommonly intimate and extended acquaintance with wild black bears were explored provide a window onto one sort of environmental identity: identity anchored partly in society, but strongly in a non-human animate relationship. Two bear biologists, two bow hunters, two trackers, two lifelong hinterland octogenarians, and for comparison two suburban homeowners who had called wildlife authorities about intruding black bears, were interviewed in depth. Qualitative analysis showed that the natural environment entered the 8 experts' sense of themselves as reflected in other humans' eyes, termed human-social identity. But several expressions of natural-social identity were also found, in which nature enters human meaning and identity more directly, particularly through extension of social connection to other animals. Early, repeated, or very vivid experiences with wild bears sometimes had an indelible effect on the self. Self and other were clarified by contrast with the self's accustomed position, as well as by recognition of commonality. Bears were perceived as subjective, intentional and intelligent individual beings with a point of view on the human person, which was perceived by nuanced reading of the bear's bodily movements. Bears were regarded by the experts with a 'healthy respect,' but not with fear. The two non-experts' interpretations, by contrast, borrowed more elements from social constructions of bears, and from human social phenomena such as victimization. Subjects' ethical orientation to the bears reflected their worldviews, but, we argue that the intricacy of 'respect' is not constituted by worldviews, but rather works differently through and beyond each.
Bott, S., Cantrill, J. G. & Myers, Jr. O. E. (2003). Place and the promise of Conservation Psychology. Human Ecology Review 10 (2): 100-112.
The diverse literature related to "place" is discussed in the context of several psychological frameworks to highlight connections to conservation psychology research and practice. The study of the human relationship to place is first cross-cut by distinctions between built versus natural places, explanatory versus normative stances, and humanistic versus scientific approaches. Several typologies are then provided as ways to organize some of the psychological research related to place. Place perception and cognition provide insights into mental and collective representations of place. Affective or emotional constructs, such as place attachment and dependence, provide insight into the strong bonds people form with places, which can be significant factors in land management. Place identity research has described the ways a person may have a sense of belonging in a place, and how this may vary with background variables. Finally, development of sense of place is examined for both children and adults. Lessons for mental health, educational and communication, and public involvement in adaptive ecosystem management are suggested, and illustrated by experiences in the Great Lakes region.
Myers, Jr. O. E., Saunders, C. D. & Garrett, E. (2003). What do children think animals need? Aesthetic and psycho-social conceptions. Environmental Education Research 9(3):305-325.
Children's spontaneous understandings of animal's needs were investigated to determine how they develop and how they contribute to values underlying environmental care. Children of ages 4 to 14 (n=171) were interviewed as they drew a favorite animal and what it needs. Certain types of understanding regarding physiological, ecological and conservation needs are described elsewhere (Myers, Saunders & Garrett, 2002). In this article, we present qualitative and quantitative analyses of three additional ways that some children thought about animals' needs, which involved aesthetic, anthropomorphic, and psycho-social dimensions. The aesthetic orientation is shown by concern about animals' bodily coherence, and about the completeness and wholeness of its surroundings. The anthropomorphic framework, which characterized some less-experienced children, contains the important feature of awareness of the other's similarity to the self. This awareness attains more accurate and nuanced expression in the third conception, the psycho-social. Children typifying this latter view emphasized the subjective experience of the animal, and/or its need for companions. Both aesthetic and psycho-social conceptions were related to objective ecological needs. More importantly, all three conceptions are fundamental to the value components of biocentric environmental care. Curricula could help children of all ages be more aware of, articulate about, and able to balance these values. The perception of what animals need is a rich nexus for environmental education.
  Myers, Jr. O. E. (2003). "No longer the lonely species: A post-Mead perspective on animals and the self." International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy 23(3): 46-68.(Invited refereed article for special issue on "Animals and the future of sociology.") Society's relations to animals pose possible blind spots in sociological theory that may be revealed and illuminated by studying systems of human-animal interaction. By investigating whether and how animals enter into key processes that shape self and society we may determine the ways in which animals might be included in the core subject matter of sociology. An earlier discussion of the role of animals in sociology initiated by Weber is reviewed. Issues that debate raised about the extent of linguistically-mediated human-animal intersubjectivity are updated. It is in principle difficult to rule out animal languages, and some animals have acquired human language. But sociology may follow a more fecund empirical route by examining successful human-animal performances produced by enduring interspecies relationships. Following this route, this paper specifically argues that the human self should be seen to take root in the available mixed species community. To show this, the work of G. H. Mead is revisited and corrected in light of recent work on early human development, and conceptual analyses of language, the body, and the self. The formation of the self is not dependent on only linguistic exchanges; a nonverbal nonhuman other can contribute to the self-reflective sense of being a human self. Based on this reasoning, examples studies of humans with wild and domestic animals illustrate the potential for a human-animal sociology.
  Myers, Jr. O. E. (2002). Symbolic animals and the developing self. Anthrozoös: A Multidisciplinary Journal of the Interactions of People and Animals 15(1): 19-36. This study examined developmental changes in animal symbols of the self, as revealed by identification with six animals (lion, eagle, bear, rabbit, lamb and cow) by children ages 4 to 5 years (n=10), 10 to11 years (n=9), and 17 to 18 years (n=10). Overall, the eagle, rabbit and lion received positive identification scores, and the bear, lamb and cow received negative scores. Differences by age showed increases for the lion, eagle and bear, and decreases for the other three. Overall boys positively identified with the lion and eagle, and rejected the rabbit, lamb and cow. Girls' average scores were positive only for the rabbit. Consideration of animal results by age by gender revealed important patterns such as a middle age group gender split on rabbit identification. The data support two theories that explain motivations to identify or to dis-identify with symbolic animals. One theory holds that animals may pose a threat to society's symbolic regulation of behavior. This threat must be reduced by categorically distinguishing humans from animals. This theory was not supported in a strong or general form, but was supported in a weaker version that holds that specific animals are appropriated to symbolize individuals' role-specific social selves. The second theory holds that exploitation of animals generates a need for psychological defenses that shield the self from moral approbation or guilt. Thus exploited animals cannot serve as symbols of the self and must be rigidly repudiated. This theory was supported also, but with data from a different sub-set of the animals. Both theories further articulate a social-developmental theory of how language, and symbolism influence human relations to animals, and help explain the origins of attitudes such as anthropocentrism. Implications for humane education are discussed.
  Myers, Jr. O. E. & Saunders, C. (2002). Animals as links to developing caring relationships with the natural world. In P. H. Kahn Jr. & S. R. Kellert (Eds.), Children and nature: Theoretical and scientific foundations (pp. 153-178). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. We offer an account of biophilia grounded in our species' social development. We argue that human social proclivities lead children to respond powerfully and flexibly to individual animals. The social responsiveness children show to animals with whom they interact has close links with cognitive, emotional, and moral development. This early care is developmentally probable given some reliably-occurring conditions: the child's propensity to flexibly grasp animals as animate social others, and normal early moral development (including the absence of obstacles). Care about individual animals develops "naturally" out of relationships. It involves being open to the other’s needs, truly putting the other’s needs first, and perceiving the other's response to care. When children also have information about ecological dependencies, they discover that caring about animals means caring about habitat and ecosystems. This environmental caring involves the formation and transformation of values, and a type of "ethical" caring that is generalized beyond particular relationships. Challenges to environmental caring include the need to balance different recipients of care, to resolve conflicts, and to consider the health of whole systems. But these challenges do not exclude care for individuals, and bear a formal resemblance to those of intra-human moral development. When care eventuates in taking responsibility for human action in nature, it offers life long opportunities for connection and making a difference.
  Myers, Jr. O. E. (2001). Young children's animal-role pretend play. In R. Mitchell (Ed.), Pretending in Animals and Humans (pp. 154-166). Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press. Children's pretend play as animals is described and analyzed in terms of its role in social development. Naturalistic observations of 3.5- to 6-year-old children from an ethnographic study are used to characterize the frequency and patterns of animal-role pretend play. Rates of such play are modest but episodes of children pretending to be beavers, beetles, cats, dinosaurs, dogs, doves, rabbits, sharks, slugs, snakes, turtles, and other animals can be analyzed to learn more about pretend, children's concepts of animals, and the role of pretend in development. Animal-role pretend play reveals children's conceptions of animals' nature as nonlanguage users, status in relation to social roles and norms, and basic interactive, intentional and animate qualities. Children's translation of animals' bodies into their own demonstrates the importance of the animate qualities of agency, coherence and affect in children's sense of relationship to animals. The functions traditionally attributed to animal-role pretend play are discussed. A different interpretation is offered based on basic animate commonalties, and the nonverbal self-reflectiveness required to translate them from the other's body to one's own. In contrast to theories that emphasize the role of language in self-reflection, this perspective implies that animals are members of the community of subjective others in relation to whom the child's sense of being a human self is formed. It is argued that animal-role pretend play contributes to the unique human developmental potential--as yet mostly uncharted--of a sense of connection to other species.
  Myers, Jr. O. E. (1999). Human development as transcendence of the animal body and the child-animal association in psychological thought. Society and Animals 7(1): 121-140. This paper explores the association of children and animals as an element in Western culture’s symbolic universe. Specifically, three historical discourses found in the West associate animality with immaturity, and growing up with the transcendence of this condition. These discourses differ in how they describe and evaluate the original animal-like condition of the child, versus the socialized end-product. They all, however, evince a tendency to make a sharp distinction between the human and the non-human. Expressions of this are explored in developmental theories which set as the criterion of maturity the actualization of some capacity which is believed to set humans apart from animals. A consequence of these assumptions is that relations with animals are seen as being of marginal importance in human development and life. Simultaneously the body is also marginalized. This dual renunciation of body and animal is criticized for its effects on both inquiry and on our realization of the roles and values of non-human animals in development. Such research can help reveal the self-organizing nature of the human animal body.
  Myers, Jr. O. E. (1996). Child-animal interaction: Nonverbal dimensions. Society and Animals 4 (1): 19-35. Examples of child-animal interactions from a year-long ethnographic study of preschoolers are examined in terms of their basic nonverbal processes and features. The contingency of interactions, the animal's body, its patterns of arousal, and the history of child-animal interactions played important roles in determining the course of interactions. Also, the children flexibly accommodated their interactive capacities to the differences in these features which the animals presented. Corresponding to these observable features of interaction, we argue that children respond to variations in animals' agency, coherence, affectivity, and continuity. Recent research shows infants also respond to these dimensions in interactants. The implications are that for the young child, animals are social others that present intrinsically engaging degrees of discrepancy from human social others; and that the child's sense of self takes shape in the available interspecies community. Interacting with animals may be more primary than human-centered factors (such as cultural meanings, anthropomorphism, social facilitation, or psychodynamic processes) in the child's experience and developing understanding of self and animal other. Implications for theories of social development are discussed