Developing typologies to use as an ecopsychological framework for understanding the relationship that people have with the biosphere in South Africa

Marais-Potgieter, Andrea
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Abstract The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has raised the alarm for humanity to address its pathological relationship with the biosphere. Individual differences, interacting as a system, often influence how people relate to and behave towards the natural world. However, there is a lack of empirically based ecopsychological research exploring multiple individual attributes, such as affect, that form systems. Individual differences impact the relationship that people have with the natural world, especially in developing countries. Understanding differences between individuals encourages the strategic design of planetary-focused interventions such as advocacy, policy, and technology development. Although much has been written about typologies, their complexity is poorly identified or articulated. As such there is a limited understanding of the human-nature nexus and how complexity influences the relationship individuals have with the biosphere. By using intrinsic, affective, cognitive, and behavioural constructs, this study sought to identify different types of people and their relationship with the biosphere. The study used an explanatory, sequential, mixed-methods design to identify, describe, and then explore typologies. A sample of 753 people was obtained through an online quantitative questionnaire battery. Results from the factor and cluster analyses showed that six heterogeneous typologies existed. Following the identification of the six typologies, individual interviews were conducted with 44 participants representing each of the typologies: The Disconnected, Observer, Misunderstood, Hero, Explorer, and Hedonist. The qualitative data were analysed using Grounded Theory Method in order to build ecopsychological theory. The typologies and associated theory provide insight into the similarities and differences between people based on a systems interaction of their life experiences, environmental worldview, concerns, biospheric affect, behaviour and beliefs about climate change.
A thesis submitted to the Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, in fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. January, 2020