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Protecting ground nesting birds

Updated: Nov 10, 2020

To compare the Theory of Planned Behaviour and the Theory of Interpersonal Behaviour as aids to understanding the behaviour of putting your dog on a lead during the lambing season and when ground nesting birds are breeding. Within the Countryside Rights of Way Act (2000) it states that from 1st of March to 31st July each year it is the law in Britain for dogs to be on a lead of no longer than two meters on open access land or under close effective control on public rights of way.  This is for the purpose of protecting livestock from harm and to reduce disturbance to ground nesting birds.  Open access land is defined as land mapped as open country (mountain, moor, heath and down) or registered common land, normally given as a public right of access under The Countryside and Rights of Way Act, 2000. Nevertheless people continue to release their dogs during this period and throughout the year in the presence of livestock, threatening bird breeding success and creating the potential for injury or death to lambs and sheep.  Statistics obtained by the Farmers Guardian (2013) state that dog attacks on livestock have increased from 691 in 2011 to 739 in 2012, and that in most cases sheep were involved, being attacked, injured or killed.  Furthermore, Banks and Bryant (2007, p. 612) found in their study that “dog walking caused a 41% reduction in the numbers of bird individuals detected and a 35% reduction in species richness compared with untreated controls”. To better understand the behaviour of putting a dog on a lead, we need to consider the factors that shape that behaviour. There are two potentially negative consequences linked to this behaviour; disturbance to ground nesting birds and danger to lambs and sheep. The first for the purpose of this essay, is deemed as ‘pro-environmental behaviour’, being “behaviour that consciously seeks to minimise the negative impact of one’s actions on the natural or built world” (Kollmuss & Agyeman, 2002, p. 240). Factors thought to influence pro-environmental behaviour include knowledge, belief, values, attitude, emotion, locus of control, responsibilities, personal trait, habit and priorities as well as external factors such as facilitating conditions and social norms. There are many theories and models of behaviour change which address pro-environmental behaviour including Kollmuss and Agyeman’s Model of Pro-Environmental Behaviour (2002), and Olander and Thogersen’s Motivation-Opportunities-Abilities Model (1995). However, these models through their intention to be comprehensive become complex and difficult to empirically test. Clearer though not without omission is Ajzen’s (1985), socio-psychological Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) and Triandis’ (1977) Theory of Interpersonal Behaviour (TIB). TPB with its inclusion of attitude, subjective norm, perceived behaviour control, intention and behaviour, is a strong theory for explaining the behaviour of putting a dog on a lead. However, with the omission of habit and facilitating conditions, it assumes that attitude informs behaviour. Whereas TIB incorporates TPB in its entirety as well as including both additional constructs. It also gains effectiveness from providing ‘affect’ with a more significant role. TPB was a development of Fishbein and Ajzen’s (1980) Theory of Reasoned Action, which was deemed “useful because of its clarity and simplicity” by Regis (1990, as cited in Kollmuss & Agyeman, 2002, p. 243), and incorporated a mathematical equation which enabled researchers to conduct empirical studies. In TPB Ajzen improved on this model by introducing perceived behavioural control, “better explaining human behaviour in a specific contexts where the individual has little control over his behaviour” (as cited in Octav-Ionut, 2015, p. 18).

Fig 1. Ajzen's 1991 Theory of Planned Behavior. Shaw (2013, p. 1). According to Stern, TBP is commonly used as a base model for predicting and investigating pro-environmental behaviour, with previous studies including travel mode choice, energy consumption, water conservation, food choice and ethical investment (as cited in Loo, Yeow, & Eze, 2013). TPB begins with attitude, which is defined by Maio and Haddock (as cited in Hewston, Stroebe & Jonas, 2015) as an overall evaluation of an object that is based on cognitive, affective and behavioural information and is believed by Ajzen and Fishbein (as cited in Loo et al., 2013, p. 6), to be “the most consistent explanatory factor in predicting the behavioural intention to perform particular behaviours.” Prager (2012) suggests that early pro-environmental behaviour models were based on linear progression from environmental knowledge through environmental attitude topro-environmental behaviour. Furthermore, modern public information campaigns are based on an assumption, incorporated within persuasion theory, that by providing the information, people’s behaviour will change. However Kollmuss and Agyeman (2002), suggest that such theories were soon proven to be wrong and that in most cases an increased knowledge and awareness did not lead to pro-environmental behaviour. Kempton, Boster and Hartley (as cited in Kollmuss & Agyeman, 2002), from their study of different US groups ranging from strong environmentalists to anti-environmentalists, implied that environmental knowledge per se is not a prerequisite for pro-environmental behaviour. One reason for this may be that most environmental degradation is not immediately tangible and regarding the disturbance to ground nesting birds, are not immediately apparent, leaving people to believe it is not a consequence of their behaviour. In addition, Kaplan (as cited in Prager, 2012, p. 12) explains that “negative environmental consequence can be too complex for people to understand and an overload of information may lead to confusion and helplessness."  Ajzen and Fishbein (as cited in Kollmuss & Agyeman, 2002, p.242) suggest “the ultimate determinants of any behaviour are behavioural beliefs concerning its consequences, and normative beliefs concerning the prescriptions of others”. Beliefs are complex and multi-faceted and people have many conflicting or complimenting beliefs. When those beliefs line up behaviour it easier to predict. However, when they conflict with each other, other factors are used to determine actions. A person who believes that letting their dog run free to be the right thing for their dog’s holistic well-being may think that their dog needs to run free to gain sufficient exercise or to enjoy its walk more. The same person may also believe that by putting their dog on a lead they will reduce the risk to wildlife and sheep. To influence intention to put their dog on the lead, the owner needs to believe they should, more than they believe they shouldn’t. Festinger’s 1957 Theory of Dissonance (as cited in Kollmuss & Agyeman, 2002, p.254), suggests that “we unconsciously seek consistency in our beliefs and mental frameworks and selectively perceive information”. People resist non-conforming information, avoiding information that conflicts or undermines and preferring to accept information that fits. Therefore, when pro-environmental priorities align with personal priorities it is more likely to lead to pro-environmental behaviour.Subjective norms, the individual’s perception of social pressure to perform the particular behaviour, is found by Kalafatis, Pollard, East and Tsogas (as cited in Loo et al., 2013, p.6) “to have direct and significant effects on behavioural intentions”. Within society there are extreme opinions regarding dog walking on or off a lead with a strength of belief that a dog should run freely and an opposing belief that a person should act within the law and within their moral duty to protect wildlife and livestock. Therefore perceived social norms of what is deemed to be responsible dog walking are complex and variable, potentially perceived differently by individuals within one dog-walking landscape. Badura’s Social Learning Theory (1977) stresses that we learn by trial and error and that whether we receive reward or punishment will determine how we decide to behave next time.  If a dog walker is approached by significant others, peers, or those deemed in power and asked to put their dog on a lead, they are more likely to adhere, believing that they may not care about wildlife or sheep but that they do care about the expectations of others of themselves.  Likewise if their dog chases a sheep and they experience ‘punishment’ from their peers, anger from a farmer, or are indeed prosecution under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act (1953), they are more likely to adhere in future.  On the other hand, if a dog walker regularly has positive experiences of walking their dog off lead within a landscape where others are doing the same without any obvious negative consequence, their intention is more likely to be continued in the same vein.  Whether or not a person adheres to perceived social norms depends on the depth to which they are motivated to comply.  Self-monitoring, individual differences and self-concept, all help to determine this and will influence the extent to which a person changes their behaviour across social situations, versus keeping their behaviour the same. Perceived behavioural control, the extent to which someone feels they are able to perform a behaviour, may be in this instance the least relevant element of TPB, as the ability to take a dog off a lead is not something that requires high self-efficacy.  However, a person’s belief that they have control over their dog’s behaviour may be of significance. Bandura (as cited in Prager, 2012) emphasises the influence of self-efficacy which is derived from performance accomplishment, vicarious experience, verbal persuasion and physiological states.  A dog walker who believes they have sufficient control over their dog’s behaviour may feel more inclined to let it off a lead than a person with low self-efficacy. Locus of Control is a person’s perception of their ability to bring about change through their own behaviour. In a study by Mtutu and Thondhlana (2015, p.4), the most common reason participants said they did not recycle included “recycling does not make a difference because not everyone does it (86%)”. People with strong internal locus of control believe their actions can bring about change, people with low locus of control believe their actions to be insignificant and that change can only be brought about by significant others. Effectiveness of the Theory of Planned Behaviour TPB has so far proven effective to better understand pro-environmental behaviour by incorporating the required constructs. However at this point, TPB leads directly to intention, suggesting this in turn dictates behaviour. Kollmuss and Agyeman, (2002, p. 242), suggest that “quantitive research has shown a discrepancy between attitude and behaviour”. Jones, Jackson, Bates and Tudor (2016), conclude that the findings from their study into the UK’s construction sector, indicated that even though staff generally exhibited strong environmental attitudes and beliefs, these did not always translate into sustainable practices. Triandis’ (1977) Theory of Interpersonal Behaviour (TIB), which contains all the constructs within TPB, suggests that in addition, facilitating conditions and habits both influence the outcome of behaviour. Also, though occurring within the attitude construct in TPB, TIB strengthens the role of ‘affect’.

Fig. 2. Triandis (1977) Theory of Interpersonal Behaviour. Affect, being a psychological term to describe emotion, is suggested in research by Chawla (as cited in Kollmuss & Agyeman, 2002), as important when making a connection to the natural environment and in turn enabling environmental awareness and concern to occur. Based on Schwartz’ (1977) Altruism Theory, Stern, Dietz, Abel and Guagnano’s (1993) Value Belief Norm Theory expands the altruistic orientation; unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others, with the addition of social orientation; concerning with removal of suffering from others, egoistic orientation; concerning removal of suffering from oneself, and biospheric orientation; being the removal of harm and suffering to the natural world or non-human species. He suggests that everyone has all three orientations in differing strengths and that the strength of the individual orientations influence direction of concern. Stern et al., (1993) proposed that environmental concern is the result of a combination of all three and Prager (2012, p. 8) states that “a person with altruistic values is more likely to activate a pro-environmental norm, whereas self-enhancement (egoistic) values tend to be negatively correlated with pro-environmental norms and actions”. When concerned with the behaviour of unleashing a dog it is a slightly more complicated concept, as although a person’s biospheric orientations may benefit their attitude towards caring for wildlife, their dog may potentially also qualify for the non-human element of this as well as qualifying for concern within their owner’s altruistic orientations. A study by Stallones, Marx, Garrity and Johnson (1988, as cited in Hart, 2002, p. 164) found that “95% of pet owners regard their pets as friends”, and Barker and Barker (1998, as cited in Hart, 2002 ), suggested that more than one third of the dog owners surveyed considered their dog closer to them than any other member of their family. Van der Linden (2015) suggests that the term ‘warm glow’ was first introduced by economist James Andreoni in an attempt to explain why people sometimes act altruistically i.e. donate to charity. He states that Andreoni’s theory suggests people act pro-socially because it is rewarding, in that they derive positive experiences from helping others. Taufik, Bolderdijk and Steg (as cited in Van der Linden, 2015), show that such behaviour elicits a literal warm glow; people’s psychological state directly influences their thermal state, closely related to a ‘helpers high’, with the brain’s response being to release oxytocin. This would suggest that by keeping a dog on a lead for the benefit of wildlife or livestock, a person may experience a warm glow. However in conflict with this, as suggested by Stern et al., (as cited in Kollmuss & Agyeman, 2002), most important to people are their own well-being and the well-being of their family, and it may be argued that a dog owner’s relationship with their dog falls within the definition of family, with Hart (2002, p. 163) stating in her review that, “for about a third of owners, their dog ranked on a par with that of other family members”. Therefore, people may experience a warm glow when they allow their dog to run free, swim in a river, chase a hare, to do what it has been bred to do best. Habit, represented in TIB as having an alternative and separate path to behaviour, is defined by Bargh (as cited in Chatterton, 2011) as not only requiring frequency but also automaticity; lacking awareness of the action, being unconscious of intent, being difficult to control, having efficiency and having a stable context. Habit is significant in the behaviour of putting a dog on a lead, as for seven months of the year a person is allowed by law to take their dog off a lead and as Chatterton’s (2011) work suggests, it takes (on average) 66 days of repetition for habits to form, sufficient time to develop multiple dog walking habits. In March each year, dog owners are asked to break these habits for five months, only to return to their original habits again in August. As Mearns suggests (as cited in Prager, 2012) behaviour is very resistant to change and we try to achieve maximum gain with minimum effort. TIB recognises facilitating conditions as aids or cues and constraints or barriers that sit between behaviour intention and the act of behaviour. Concerned with the behaviour of leashing a dog, such facilitating conditions can also be considered as behaviour interventions and may include, the presence of a sign asking for this behaviour to be actioned and giving clear reasons why, the owner having a lead to hand, an authoritative figure on site, a peer demonstrating the desirable behaviour, a reward being offered in the form of free leads and badges and advice on offer as to where it is acceptable to release a dog from its lead during the specified season. In turn, any of these aids or cues to action, if absent, become barriers or constraints. Conclusion Behavioural interventions that enable the behaviour of leashing a dog during the lambing season and when ground nesting birds are breeding, need to respect the strength of a dog owner’s affect or emotional belief that their dog’s holistic well-being must not be compromised. This would require interventions to provide practical solutions or facilitating conditions also known as aids or cues, which comply with a dog owner’s intrinsic motivation to fulfil their dog’s needs, their dog, being to many owners, a part of their family unit. To succeed in persuading a dog owner to break for five months of every year, their routine and habits and comply with such interventions, interventions require strategies that tap into the owner’s biospheric orientations, demonstrating the value of protecting wildlife and complimenting, rather than conflicting with their altruistic concerns for their dog. For this reason TIB, and its inclusion of habit and facilitating factors as well as the importance it places on affect, is better placed than TPB in understanding the behaviour of leashing a dog during the lambing season and the season in which ground nesting birds are breeding. Additional factors such as pro-environmental consciousness, which may strengthen TIB’s effectiveness to understand the discussed behaviour, are included within Kollmus and Agyeman’s (2002) Model of Pro-Environmental Behaviour. However the model’s complexity may make designing and processing interventions difficult and potentially inaccurate, and as developing a greater understanding of a behaviour should then enable development of interventions, these additional constructs are deemed in this instance to add complexity rather than value. References Ajzen, Icek. (1991). The Theory of Planned Behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes Volume 50, p179-21. ResearchGate. Banks, P. 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