Skip to Main Content
U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Home > Search > Publication Information

  1. Share via EmailShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Twitter
    Dislike this pubLike this pub


    The estimated cost of repairing damage caused to recreational sites annually is in the hundreds of millions of dollars. These depreciative activities also reduce the quality of visitors’ experiences in the damaged areas. Indirect methods, such as visitor education through brochures and signs, continue to be the least controversial management approaches to depreciative acts. Yet, the literature on studies examining the most effective message presentations remains sparse. A survey mailed to randomly selected National Association for Interpretation members assessed the perceived effectiveness of communications that encouraged positive conduct (prescriptive messages) versus those that discouraged negative conduct (proscriptive messages) in wildland and urban settings. Almost invariably, respondents viewed the encouragement-based prescriptive messages as more effective than the discouragement- based proscriptive messages. This finding stands in sharp contrast to an earlier study that discovered a preponderance of proscriptive versus prescriptive messages on signs in both wildland and urban recreational environments. Thus, although the great majority of interpreters see the encouragement of positive conduct as more effective, in practice, messages on signs are much more likely to discourage negative conduct. Reasons for this discrepancy are considered.

    Publication Notes

    • You may send email to to request a hard copy of this publication.
    • (Please specify exactly which publication you are requesting and your mailing address.)
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Winter, P.L.; Sagarin, B.J.; Rhoads, K.; Barrett, D.W.; Cialdini, R.B. 2000. Choosing to encourage or discourage: Perceived effectiveness of prescriptive and proscriptive messages. Environmental Management 26 (6): 588-594.


    prescriptive message effectiveness, proscriptive message effectiveness, messages in signs, communication

    Related Search

    XML: View XML
Show More
Show Fewer
Jump to Top of Page