Does Taking Simple Physical Actions Drive Engagement? A Study of Gamification for Climate Action
Prideaux, Quentin Scott
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CitationPrideaux, Quentin Scott. 2022. Does Taking Simple Physical Actions Drive Engagement? A Study of Gamification for Climate Action. Master's thesis, Harvard University Division of Continuing Education.
AbstractThough the climate crisis has been understood by US and global scientists for decades, action by the US and global public has not matched the urgency of the issue and existing interventions have not induced a majority of people to make the individual, and systemic, changes necessary to effectively mitigate climate change.
This research was developed to better understand if and how individuals might be more inclined to personally engage in the mitigation of climate change through a gamification platform and direct investigation of the hypothesis that “We act ourselves into thinking differently more easily than we think ourselves into acting differently.” Specifically, the research built upon a game platform, SaveOhno, co-designed by the author in 2016 that sought to engage college students with the climate crisis and other sustainability issues. Previous work with students and SaveOhno had seemed to show positive correlations between students taking repeated, simple, physical actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the gamified platform and the students’ rising sense of self-efficacy as agents of reducing global climate change.
This new experiment was again conducted through the SaveOhno gamification platform and engaged 92 US college students over three weeks in Spring 2021. Research participants were asked to perform up to 17 challenges, 10 of which included a simple physical action related to mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, then responded to a series of questions as to their level of engagement, and perceptions of self-efficacy, in mitigating climate change. All research participants were surveyed pre-test for experimental variables (demographics, prior commitment, and climate knowledge), and surveyed pretest and posttest for levels of engagement (disposition and emotional associations). Feelings of self-efficacy were also surveyed using a climate engagement framework created by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (YPCCC).
Despite previous SaveOhno gamified engagements seeming to show positive results of mind-body connections regarding climate mitigation behaviors, this experiment using careful methodology and data analysis, found no significant and reliable differences between the pre-test and post-test surveys of research participants. Specifically, this experiment did not find any significant results showing that simple, physical actions taken by individuals to combat or mitigate climate change had any measurable effect on their sense of self-efficacy in overall mitigation of the global climate crisis. This result was consistent regardless of whether the data were parsed for the whole cohort of participants or according to subsets of experimental variables.
While the results of this research program did not support the initial hypothesis, a review of parallel disciplines of behavior and mental state modification related to physical engagement suggests that it is still reasonable to expect a positive correlation and effect. In fact, the lack of result in this study more likely suggests gaps in the experimental design or research execution that should be addressed in future studies to better understand potential correlation. As such, several adjustments to the study are discussed and analyzed. Two key updates to future research would include increasing the number of interventions as well as the overall time period of the game in order for significant results to be measured.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37371543
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