Place Attachment Style as a Predictor of Responses to the Environmental Threat of Water Contamination

Daniel L Sullivan, Isaac F. Young

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


People are increasingly exposed to environmental threat in the form of “slow-scale” disaster, such as the water contamination at Flint, Michigan. Little is known about the role of place attachment in determining responses to such threats. The present research tests a comprehensive model linking place attachment style to patterns of environmental threat response. Two highly powered surveys (total N = 603) test this model in the context of a water contamination scenario. Across both studies, we find that a more communal and traditionalist place inherited style predicts defensive denial of the threat and compensatory identification with spiritual powers, while a more agentic and cosmopolitan place discovered style predicts identification with responsible institutions and collective action motivation. Place relativity style—characterized by high mobility and lack of attachment—predicts scapegoating of responsible institutions, especially when the threat occurs in a location other than one’s neighborhood (Study 2).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-32
Number of pages30
JournalEnvironment and Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • collective action
  • contamination
  • environmental threat
  • place attachment
  • place attachment style
  • scapegoating

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)


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