Contagion in the representational field of water recycling: informing new environment practice through social representation theory
Callaghan, P, Moloney, G & Blair, DC 2012, 'Contagion in the representational field of water recycling: informing new environment practice through social representation theory', Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, vol. 22, no. 1, pp. 20-37.
Published version available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/casp.1101
Water shortages in Australia have highlighted an urgent need for alternative water sources, and technologically, water recycling is argued to offer the most cost-effective, environmentally sustainable solution to these shortages. Yet public support for its implementation is low even in the drought-stricken areas of Australia. Drawing from the theory of social representations, this study addressed community perceptions of water recycling. Three interrelated methodologies were employed in a self-report questionnaire. Individual difference scaling/multidimensional scaling analyses of three word association tasks revealed that the emergent social representation of water recycling was contradictory in affect. Normative responses indicated an awareness of the need to use recycled water whereas the functional responses were associated with a fear of contamination. An analysis of differential use scales further revealed that the perception of contagion was specific to when recycled water had contact with the body. The discursive analysis of respondents' comments expanded on both these findings. The study identified the themata of purity/impurity as underpinning the social understanding of water recycling. Copyright ï¿½ 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.