TOPSS Scholars Essay Competition
2010 Essay Topic
Human behavior is a leading cause of the current environmental crisis, and this is a critical concern for society. One of the goals of psychology is to address problems faced by human beings and to improve the quality of life for all. This essay competition requires you to describe a community service project that could be carried out in your local community to encourage environmentally-friendly behavior. You are asked to develop a statement on how human behavior affects a specific environmental issue and describe a project that you and your classmates could carry out in the local community. You should use THREE of the principles of learning theory listed in Section II to encourage behavior change in your community, and use research findings on these principles to support your plan.
Submit an essay of 3,000 words or less that addresses each of the three sections below. Use the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association to write your paper.
Section I: Describe a local service project that addresses an environmental issue
As an introduction, describe the impact human behavior has had on the environment, citing at least 3 peer-reviewed journal articles*. You are then asked to describe an environmental concern in your community, addressing how human behavior contributes to this problem. Next, you are asked to describe a project that you and a group of students could work on that would encourage positive behavior change within the community to address this problem. The project should be directed toward a single environmental issue and should include concepts based in learning theory to influence public opinion. Use THREE out of the five principles of learning theory listed in Section II to create your project.
*For a starting point, see suggested readings online (PDF, 1004KB).
Section II: Applying Principles of Learning Theory
Select three out of the five principles of learning theory listed below, describe them, and explain how each principle or technique could be used in your project.
Schedules of reinforcement
Your project should apply THREE of these principles, and you should use research findings on these principles and techniques to justify their use in your project. To do this, find at least one research study (per topic) that supports each principle and technique in your project and summarize the findings of each study.
Section III: Conclusion
Discuss the value of using the correct principles of learning theory to develop a project to encourage environmental change (i.e., when is it good and when might it be potentially harmful to use these principles). Then, include a discussion on the long term impact of implementing your project’s suggestions. Finally, briefly describe what you have learned about human behavior and its impact on the environment from writing this essay. Summarize this conclusion in 300 words or less.