Make Inspect, Remove, Drain, Never Move your 2017 intention, and some science behind that

Post by Jenny Seifert, AIS Outreach Specialist, UW-Extension

As you recover from the holiday revelry and look ahead into the New Year, full of optimistic resolve to make your life better, we suggest you add a certain intention to your 2017 game plan. You guessed it: when using Wisconsin’s lakes, rivers and wetlands, always Inspect, Remove, Drain, and Never Move to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.

I know aquatic summer fun may be far from your mind right now, as you pile on the layers to protect yourself from the icy wrath of the latest polar vortex. But there’s no time like the present to set your intentions, and here’s why.

Behavioral intentions play a key role in behavior change, according to the Theory of Planned Behavior, an important theory we apply often to our AIS prevention campaigns.

Intentions are indications that you are ready to act and the immediate determinants of a behavior. Without the intention, the behavior won’t happen, so the theory goes.

Underlying our intentions are three factors: our attitude toward the behavior, perceived social norms, and our perceived ability to perform the behavior. Let’s break this down further.

Starting with attitudes, these are our feelings about a behavior – is it and its outcomes good or bad (favorable or unfavorable)? If I believe aquatic invasive species are bad and preventing them is good, I am likely to think it is good for me to try to stop them. So my attitude toward Inspect, Remove, Drain, Never Move is favorable.

Our attitudes about a behavior interact with what we think other people – particularly, people whose opinions we care about – expect of us, which includes what they think about the behavior in question and what they do themselves. This factor is called subjective norms.

In other words, if I think my friends, family and fellow boaters expect me to Inspect, Remove, Drain, and Never Move, then I am more likely to cave to that social pressure.

Finally, our attitudes and subjective norms also interact with our sense of self-efficacy, or our perceived behavioral control. If I believe I am capable of Inspecting, Removing, Draining and Never Moving and there is nothing preventing me from doing so, then my intent to act is stronger.

All three of these factors combined predict our intentions, which in turn predict our behaviors.

If you need a visual to pull all of this together, here is what the theory looks like:

Source: Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50, p. 179-211.

Of course, real-life behavior is not always as neat and tidy as a conceptual model. Our behaviors are often a mess of factors that we can’t always explain. But behavior theories do a good job of making some sense of why people do what they do and how we might change our ways for the better. (Side note: An interesting exercise is to try to dissect why you do a certain behavior – at least I geek out on that sometimes.)

Now that we understand how setting an intention to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species can help us actually do it, we’d love to hear how you intend to stop aquatic hitchhikers this year. Send us a comment below and/or tag @WisconsinAIS in a Tweet – we’ll share or retweet our favorites.

Happy 2017!

This entry was posted in Education and Outreach, Invasive Species and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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