This was demonstrated by Cristina Gómez-Román and co-authors of Run4Life project partners Universidad de Santiago de Compostela and WE&B in their new paper ‘Environmental Concern Priming and Social Acceptance of Sustainable Technologies: The Case of Decentralized Wastewater Treatment Systems’ (https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.647406).
The authors tested whether thinking about wastewater treatment technologies as a sustainable endeavour to reduce the human impact on the environment can help to overcome barriers to social acceptance. Examples of barriers are resistance to change, cost aspects, ideas about possible loss of comfort and a general uncertainty of the impact such a new system could have on their lives. The results showed that participants that were required to consider environmental problems had more positive attitudes and behavioural intentions toward decentralised wastewater treatment plants than those in the control group. Participants who received only advantages information had a more positive perception than people who were also presented with disadvantages about the treatment systems, but for those who had been primed about environmental concern this difference was not significant. The results imply that priming environmental concern can help to overcome the possible disadvantages that act as barriers to acceptance.
Although the effect sizes found were modest, this exploratory research provides encouraging evidence for its value as an explanatory mechanism to launch communication campaigns and catalyse other research studies with larger samples. It implies that it is necessary consider carefully how information is presented, even in the control condition.