Normative Influences on Farmers’ Intentions to Practice Conservation Without Compensation

Jerry J. Vaske, Adam C. Landon, Craig A. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Non-source nutrients (e.g., nitrogen, phosphorous) from agriculture have created a massive hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico. This zone contains no oxygen and is devoid of life. US Department of Agriculture programs provide direct payments to farmers to encourage adoption of practices that reduce nutrient pollution. Paying farmers to change behavior, however, is expensive. Personal and social norms may serve to reduce these payment costs by motivating farmers to take action without external reward. This study explored relationships between three normative concepts (awareness of consequences (AC), ascription of responsibility (AR), subjective norms (SN)) and Illinois farmers’ intention to continue participation in conservation without financial compensation. Data were obtained from a mailed questionnaire. Only farmers who were currently being paid to participate in a conservation program were included in the analysis (n = 551). Using norm activation theory and the theory of reasoned action, we hypothesized that SN would be positively related to AC, AR, and conservation intentions without compensation. We also predicted that AC would be positively related to AR, and that AC and AR would be positively related to conservation intentions. All hypotheses were supported. Both personal norms (AC, AR) and social norms (subjective norms) were related to intentions to continue conservation without pay. Behavioral interventions that activate norms may help facilitate conservation without payments. As applied in this study, activating personal and social norms may serve to reduce nutrient pollution from agriculture that is flowing into the Gulf of Mexico and resulting in the hypoxic zone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)191-201
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Management
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020


  • Ascription of responsibility
  • Awareness of consequences
  • Payment for conservation
  • Subjective norms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Pollution


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