Katherine Farrow to Intern in Montpellier, France

Katherine Farrow

For the fall of 2011, SPIA graduate student Kate Farrow plans to intern as a research assistant at the MOISA Associated Joint Research Unit in Montpellier, France, which operates under Montpellier SupAgro, the International Center for the Higher Education of Agricultural Sciences. There, she will assist researchers in investigating what leads people to adopt altruistic, conformist, or positional behaviors towards the environment. Traditional economic theory dictates that these preferences (altruistic, conformist, and positional) are constant traits in individuals. However, some evidence seems to refute this theory: many people do not behave in this way, instead indicating that these preferences may be situational. This project will explore this effect, attempting to answer why consumers sometimes search for uniqueness or distinction in their environmental behaviors, while at other times for social norms. If this phenomenon is validated by the research, the implications of collective flexible preferences would be significant. Understanding if and why these preference-types change would allow policy-makers to better anticipate the aggregate effects of consumer behaviors and therefore more effectively craft environmental policies reflective of society’s needs.

In addition to this research, Kate will also aid researchers by acting in a teaching capacity at Montpellier SupAgro. To satisfy the academic credits she will receive for this internship, Kate will produce a term paper and prepare a presentation to deliver at UMaine upon her return which will address her academic, cultural, and service-related experiences in this international context.