Animal Studies Bibliography

Liu, James H., Belinda Bonzon-Liu, and Marie Pierce-Guarino. 1997. Common Fate Between Humans and Animals? The Dynamical Systems Theory of Groups and Environmental Attitudes in the Florida Keys. Environment and Behavior 29(1): 87-122.

DSTG is one theory that aims to explain why so few people join environmental movements. It describes groups as the interaction between three fundamental classes of variables: (a) social identity, a psychological...construct that attaches individuals to various groups and collectives; (b) patterns of interpersonal ties (i.e. social networks); and (c) material conditions and access to resources (88-89). In situations with long-term consequences or many groups of people involved, it is difficult for anyone to determine what is in her/his best interests, and the group one is attached to by these variables often serves as a quick way to choose a side. We may feel connected to others based on such things as shared language, physical appearance, history, behavior, and belief that you have a common fate and common agenda. Liu et al. point out that having a common fate is the only one we could share with animals, and that this limits the likelihood that we'll take animals' side in conflicts with developers and other groups. They hypothesize that people who think they have a common fate with animals will be much more supportive of environmental issues because saving the environment will seem to be in their self-interest. One barrier to developing this identification with animals is the way the issues are portrayed in the media, which often includes conflicting explanations of the problem and the solution.



Most newspaper coverage of issues surrounding the Key Deer, an endangered species in the Florida Keys, will treat the deer positively but will focus on environmentalist/developer conflicts. When discussing threats to the Key Deer, the articles will focus on visible symptoms like road kills and ignore structural threats like pollution and loss of habitat. As a result, people will probably not see their interests as connected to those of the deer.

Independent variables/operational definitions

Newspaper article content--categories: 1) Key Deer; 2) development issues; 3) conflicts of interest; 4) history of the island; 5) structural factors; 6) publicity; 7) conflict + development; 8) conflict + Key Deer

Dependent variables/operational definitions

Perception of common fate with Key Deer (not operationalized nor measured)


As expected, newspaper accounts often (41% of the sample) portrayed conflicts of interest (developers v. environmentalists, residents v. government agencies). The accounts also contained conflicting claims about what threatens the deer (e.g., 25% of the articles said habitat loss was a problem, whereas about 13% said it has no effect) and ignored structural and deeper issues (e.g. discussion of building a shopping mall ignores the connected questions of how it will change traffic, population, and infrastructural needs). The articles thus keep people from getting clear information and focus attention on conflicts, keeping people from seeing a common fate between themselves and the Key Deer. One possible reason for such coverage is the newspapers have an interest in gaining population, and therefore have a hidden agenda to support development.

Sample/population sampled

124 articles from US Fish & Wildlife Service collection on the Key Deer--all articles found in local and national papers about the topic from January 1987 to January 1992, excluding articles on the issue of whether to build an elementary school in the island.



People who perceive a common fate between themselves and the Key Deer will be more supportive of environmental issues.

Independent variables/operational definitions

Used in multiple regression: 1) perception of common fate; 2) liking for the Key Deer; 3) duration (index of age and time on the island); 4) gender; 5) pride in the community (2-item scale); 6) perceptions of beauty and uniqueness of the island.

Dependent variables/operational definitions

1) general environmental policy preferences (index score made from questions regarding the pace of development, the need to maintain wilderness, etc.)

2) land use preferences (should residents be able to develop land near the deer's habitat; should the government add land to the wildlife refuge)

3) liking the refuge and its managers (how much R likes the wildlife refuge and the US Fish & Wildlife service)

4) are the current speed limits appropriate


1) Perception of common fate was most significant predictor of general environmental policy preferences. Opinion that animals and nature were part of Big Pine's beauty was also significant. Liking the Key Deer was not a predictor. Community pride was positively related to environmental preferences (higher score=more environmentalist), duration was negatively related and almost significant, and gender had no relationship.

2) Common fate was most important and only significant predictor of land use preferences. Duration was again an almost significant negative relationship (younger people and newer residents supported a larger refuge and slowed development). Liking the Key Deer and other variables were weak.

3) Demographic variables were best predictors of liking the refuge and its managers: duration was negatively correlated (older people were more negative about the refuge and the government agency). Liking the Key Deer was a positive and significant predictor. Perception of a common fate also had a significant effect.

4) There was little variation regarding speed limits--90% agreed that they were appropriate (perhaps suggesting that newspaper accounts have been successful I portraying traffic accidents as the main threat to the deer).

In sum, perception of a common fate is the best predictor of environmental attitudes. On all issues except liking for the Key Deer (on which most agree), opinion is evenly split (50-50). Further research is needed to test such variables as SES and education level, and to test other operationalizations of common fate, since the phrase confused a number of respondents.

Sample/population sampled

Telephone interviews with 56 Big Pine residents, from phone book listing of three neighborhoods bordering the most important undeveloped wildlife area. 40% of those who answered the phone participated in the interview.

It appears that the exclusion of long-term issues from the local media is a barrier to people perceiving structural issues and their common fate with the Key Deer. Because the media have interests in selling newspapers, they will likely continue to focus on the short term and on conflict, but the results of the studies show that information and common fate perception are effective in developing environmental attitudes, so environmental groups should take on the effort of education.


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