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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 20425

Warning: This library includes all items relevant to health product marketing that we are aware of regardless of quality. Often we do not agree with all or part of the contents.


Publication type: Journal Article

Winter PL, Sagarin BJ, Rhoads K, Barrett DW, Cialdini RB.
Choosing to Encourage or Discourage: Perceived Effectiveness of Prescriptive Versus Proscriptive Messages.
Environ Manage 2000; 26:(6):589-594


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.


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