almost certainly do it, (3) I would probably do it, (4) perhaps I would do it, and (5) I would probably not do it.
Here also the results were mixed, Boyes explained. For example, on the question of more efficient cars, students in India were most likely to say they would “definitely” or “almost certainly” try to get a car that uses less gasoline (nearly 70 percent), while 20 percent of students in the United Kingdom chose one of these two responses. In the United States, 38 percent of students said they would “definitely” or “almost certainly” get a car that uses less gasoline and 20 percent of them said they would use their cars less. Other questions focused on students’ willingness to use public transportation, to pay for alternative energy sources, and to eat less meat (Boyes et al., 2011; Rodriguez et al., 2011).
The researchers also explored the connection between how potentially helpful respondents perceived an action to be and how willing they were to undertake that action (see Figures 2-1a and 2-1b). The five response items for the two question types were matched, Boyes noted, to make it easier to address the possible connections, and the researchers assigned codes to the five levels. Thus, the top responses (“the action would help quite a lot” and “I would definitely do it”) were assigned a value of 1.00, the next responses (“help by a fair amount” and “I would almost certainly do it”) were assigned 0.75, the middle options (“by a small but useful amount” and “I would probably do it”) were coded as 0.50, the next (“by a very small amount“ and “perhaps I would do it”) as 0.25, and the lowest responses (“by nothing at all really” and “I would probably not do it”) had a value of 0.00 (see Figure 2-1a). With these codes it was possible to create a scatterplot for the responses to both questions.
One might hope, Boyes observed, that there would be a linear relationship between perception of an action’s efficacy and willingness to take that action, and the data did show a relationship between the two. Boyes also pointed out what he described as both “a natural willingness to act, up to a point,” even for people who believe the action won’t be helpful, and “a natural reluctance to act,” even among people who believe the action might help a lot. These effects vary by question. For example, people are very willing to switch off unused appliances in their homes, but very unwilling to support nuclear power, even if they believe strongly in its usefulness to combat climate change. Workshop participants raised the question of what “willingness” really meant to respondents of the survey, noting that it could, at least in part, signify their recognition of what they ought to say or reflect the views of their parents or other influences. Boyes acknowledged the possibility that there would not be a perfect correlation between what students or others report being willing to do and what they later do, but pointed out that there are practical limits to the possibilities for assessing people’s intentions.