Changing Public Behavior: Self-Study Modules
C. Methodologies and technologies for exploring social dimensions
CPB Self-Study Module
STEP 4. Collect audience information relevant to the environmental practice and specific behaviors
C. What methodologies or technologies are available for exploring the social dimensions of a particular environmental concern?
Using social assessment tools
Case Study III: Testing a fact sheet about toxic substances in fish
Burger and Waishwell (2001) wanted to test a fish fact sheet. They wanted to know:
- What message did the audience obtain from the fact sheet?
- Who should be the target audience for the fact sheet?
- Who should be concerned about risks of fish consumption?
- What are the best methods of disseminating this kind of information?
To answer their questions, Burger and Waishwell surveyed people fishing along a certain river, in person, and asked about their response to information on a Fish Fact Sheet. They talked with anglers individually, and read the fact sheet out loud with the person.
From the feedback they received, they found that they could describe their audience according to various critical factors: literacy (personal capabilities), ethnic backgrounds (contextual factors), and attitudes about health and attitudes about the environment (attitudinal). Querying people on a personal level (interviews) established that there was almost 100% interest among the people who were fishing in receiving information or sharing the information with others. The majority of people understood at least one message correctly from the Fish Fact Sheet. But audiences had different content interests. African Americans were interested in health risk levels from contaminated fish and wanted to know where to get more fact sheets. European Americans were interested in the level of contamination in the fish.
These findings helped the educators to target their messages to the specific interests of the proposed recipients – even to include providing a different fact sheet for each particular audience – and to re-write troublesome wording to make each relevant message more understandable to the specific target audience.
Burger, J., & Waishwell, L. (2001). Are we reaching the target audience? Evaluation of a fish fact sheet. The Science of the Total Environment, 277, 77-86.