Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology

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Volume 6 Issue 3 (August 1996), Pages fmi-fmi, 157-231

Identity Processes and Environmental Threat: the Effects of Nationalism and Local Identity upon Perception of Beach Pollution (pages 157-175)


This study examines the importance of local and national identity processes in predicting the perception of a threat to the local environment: pollution of British beaches defined in terms of European Union (EU) regulations concerning cleanliness. Place identity and social identity theories would predict that English people would exhibit positive discrimination when evaluating both their local and national beaches and would allow ingroup preferences to influence their estimates of beach pollution. The study involved administering questionnaires to 347 English students drawn from secondary schools in six seaside resorts (three with ‘polluted’ beaches, and three with ‘unpolluted’ beaches according to the EU criteria). It was hypothesized that degree of both local and national identification would predict variance in perceived levels of pollution independently of either the EU categorization or the physical evidence of pollution available. On the whole, results confirmed this main hypothesis: subjects who were more attached to their town or their nation tended to perceive their local and national beaches as less polluted. Traditional predictors of environmental evaluation (such as socio‐demographic variables, environmental concern, use of the environment) did not play an important role in predicting beach pollution perception. Denial of physical assessments of pollution was interpreted as a strategy used to cope with the threat to place identity posed by the labelling of local beaches by a powerful outgroup (the EU).

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