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Title: Choosing to encourage or discourage: Perceived effectiveness of prescriptive and proscriptive messages

Author: Winter, P.L.; Sagarin, B.J.; Rhoads, K.; Barrett, D.W.; Cialdini, R.B.;

Date: 2000

Source: Environmental Management 26 (6): 588-594

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: The estimated cost of repairing damage caused to recreational sites annually is in the hundreds of millions of dollars. These depreciative activities also reduce the quality of visitors’ experiences in the damaged areas. Indirect methods, such as visitor education through brochures and signs, continue to be the least controversial management approaches to depreciative acts. Yet, the literature on studies examining the most effective message presentations remains sparse. A survey mailed to randomly selected National Association for Interpretation members assessed the perceived effectiveness of communications that encouraged positive conduct (prescriptive messages) versus those that discouraged negative conduct (proscriptive messages) in wildland and urban settings. Almost invariably, respondents viewed the encouragement-based prescriptive messages as more effective than the discouragement- based proscriptive messages. This finding stands in sharp contrast to an earlier study that discovered a preponderance of proscriptive versus prescriptive messages on signs in both wildland and urban recreational environments. Thus, although the great majority of interpreters see the encouragement of positive conduct as more effective, in practice, messages on signs are much more likely to discourage negative conduct. Reasons for this discrepancy are considered.

Keywords: prescriptive message effectiveness, proscriptive message effectiveness, messages in signs, communication

Publication Notes:

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Winter, P.L.; Sagarin, B.J.; Rhoads, K.; Barrett, D.W.; Cialdini, R.B. 2000. Choosing to encourage or discourage: Perceived effectiveness of prescriptive and proscriptive messages. Environmental Management 26 (6): 588-594.


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