Effects of Nature Exposure and Nature Relatedness On Goals: Implications For Materialism

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Dopko, Raelyne Leslie




Materialism, the high importance individuals assign to owning material items, is generally associated with less human happiness and fewer sustainable behaviours. In this thesis, I proposed nature contact as a novel solution for decreasing materialistic aspirations, increasing mood, and fostering environmental concern. I used self-determination theory to propose that nature contact may orient people towards pro-social goals (e.g., intrinsic goals, environmental concern) while shifting people away from extrinsic goals (e.g., materialism). I proposed that people need to affiliate and connect with nature, which is consistent with the biophilia hypothesis and ecopsychology. When this need is met, I hypothesized that intrinsic goals and mood would increase, decreasing materialistic aspirations. Nature relatedness, feeling part of the natural environment, was explored as a mediator of the relationship between nature exposure and materialistic aspirations. To test these ideas, I conducted four studies with different types of nature exposure and then assessed dependent measures. Walks in nature generally lead to increases in mood (Pilot Study, Study 1) and state nature relatedness (Pilot Study, Study 1, Study 3). However, viewing nature photographs and spending time in nature over multiple days were mostly ineffective at increasing moods (Study 2 and 3). Viewing photographs did not change state nature relatedness (Study 2). Regardless of the type of nature exposure, environmental concern did not change in response to nature exposure (Study 2 and 3). Across the four studies, nature exposure did not decrease materialistic aspirations or increase intrinsic aspirations. This suggests that nature exposure, as manipulated in this dissertation, does not shift the perceived importance of specific aspirations in the moment or over a 12-day period. However, correlational evidence suggested that trait nature relatedness (and feeling high nature relatedness in the moment) was related to lower materialistic aspirations and higher intrinsic aspirations (Pilot Study, Study 1 and Study 3). This supports the idea that increasing people’s connection to nature may be a potential strategy or intervention for decreasing materialistic aspirations. To examine this possibility, researchers may wish to use different types of nature exposure and further document which types of nature exposure lead to which specific benefits.


Psychology - Personality
Psychology - Social




Carleton University

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Theses and Dissertations

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