Framing the conservation conversation: an investigation into framing techniques for communicating biodiversity conservation

Kusmanoff, A 2017, Framing the conservation conversation: an investigation into framing techniques for communicating biodiversity conservation, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Framing the conservation conversation: an investigation into framing techniques for communicating biodiversity conservation
Author(s) Kusmanoff, A
Year 2017
Abstract Biodiversity loss is one of the most serious of contemporary environmental problems. As human activities are the primary driver of biodiversity loss, changes to human behaviour will be an essential component of species conservation strategies. Research in communication, sociology, psychology, and political science has shown that the way in which an issue is ‘framed’ can influence judgements, attitudes and behaviours. As such, communications intended to promote behaviour change in favour of biodiversity conservation may be made more effective by the strategic use of framing. Although a sizable framing literature exists across many research areas, there is little research on the use of framing to promote biodiversity conservation, and practically no guidance for those involved in communicating conservation messages. This thesis builds an understanding of the use of framing to promote biodiversity conservation by: empirically testing several alternatively framed conservation communications; investigating the degree to which framing is strategically used in the Australian private land conservation sector to promote conservation programs; considering how the framing of biodiversity has changed over the last decade within public policy discourse; and providing guidance to communicators on how to strategically frame their messages for greater effect.

This thesis begins by empirically testing several alternatively framed conservation messages. I test how framing ‘property’ as either a ‘discrete asset’ or as a ‘bundle-of-rights’ can influence attitudes to regulations that would interfere with property rights in order to achieve conservation outcomes. I find that the alternative property ‘frames’ can influence attitudes, but only when used to activate cognitive biases (in this case the endowment effect). I also test how framing nature in terms of ‘ecosystem services’ influences the way in which people think about and value nature, and find that information framed to emphasise economic aspects of ecosystem services can crowd-out (i.e. displace) intrinsic motivations for conservation. Such ‘ecosystem service’ framed messages thereby have the potential to promote a mindset that the only nature worth preserving is that with a demonstrable and quantifiable value.

The thesis then examines the degree to which framing is strategically used in the Australian private land conservation sector to promote participation. By examining the websites of a range of Australian schemes and categorising stated participation benefits as either benefits to landholders, to society or to the environment, I gain insight into the types of landholders mostly likely to be engaged by these messages. The results indicate a predominance of environmentally-framed benefits, which arguably indicates a lack of strategic framing, whereby appeals are aimed chiefly at those landholders who are already most likely to participate in conservation.

The thesis then considers how the framing of biodiversity has changed over the last decade within public policy discourse by examining media releases from the Australian Government environment portfolio and the Australian Conservation Foundation. I find that the term ‘biodiversity’ has become less prevalent while the use of economic language has increased. This may reflect a strategic response by these agencies to better engage with both the general public and decision makers within what is an increasingly dominant neoliberal paradigm. However, this change in discourse is likely also to generate its own influence on the way people think about biodiversity conservation, including the potential for ‘crowding-out’ of intrinsic values.

Finally, the thesis presents a synthesis of these research findings including key concepts from the framing and related literature to provide some guidance to conservation communicators on how to strategically frame their messages for greater impact and effect.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Global, Urban and Social Studies
Subjects Psychology and Cognitive Sciences not elsewhere classified
Applied Economics not elsewhere classified
Conservation and Biodiversity
Keyword(s) Framing
Biodiversity
Conservation
Private Land
Messaging
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Created: Thu, 04 May 2017, 11:21:43 EST by Denise Paciocco
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