The Influence of Cultural Worldview and Networks of Relationships on Implementation of Conservation Practices in Whitman County, Washington Thesis uri icon



  • Thesis (Ph.D., Natural Resources) | This dissertation integrates cultural cognition with Social Network Theory to describe cultural worldviews of agricultural producers and information sources within Whitman County, Washington; influence of cultural worldview on producer selection of information sources; and influence of cultural worldview on producer likelihood to implement conservation practices. A mixed methods approach consisting of three phases was employed: I) survey of producers, II) survey of information sources, and III) interviews with producers. Our findings indicate that the majority of producers within Whitman County fall within the "hierarchical individualists" worldview type and they have a high likelihood of selecting information sources who hold the same cultural worldview as themselves. This is exhibited in network graphs as a high level of homophily between "hierarchical individualist" producers and information sources. Producer interviews provide context for influence of cultural worldview on information source selection. Our findings reinforce that cultural cognition operates when an individual is evaluating an expert for credibility, resulting in the individual selecting information sources whom they perceive to share their values. This has practical implications for Whitman County information sources as they are significantly more likely than producers to fall within the worldview type classified as "egalitarian communitarians." This is even further compounded within the information sources classified as "conservation information sources" and "university affiliated information sources." Our findings suggest that while cultural cognition may be an indicator for attitudes toward conservation, there was no difference in actual behavior of producers of different worldview types as measured by the number or types of conservation practices implemented. The themes and sub-themes that emerged from producer interviews to explain both implementation and non-implementation of conservation practices were both rich in content and broad in scope. Producers' reasons for implementing conservation practices fell under the main themes of "voluntary" and "regulatory compliance." Additional recommendations related to successful delivery of outreach programs and important characteristics of information sources are presented. The theoretical approach advanced through this research provides a theoretical contribution regarding how cultural cognition may influence the network characteristic of homophily and the formation and structure of agricultural producers' social networks within Whitman County, Washington.

publication date

  • December 15, 2013

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