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
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,
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,
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):
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
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
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