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The Scoop on Dog Poop

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Editor’s Note: Earlier versions of this article appeared in our print magazine, Accolades, and online. 

When it comes to dog poop, everyone has an opinion. After studying attitudes on the topic, Clodagh Lyons-Bastian (M.S., Communication ’15) developed some informed opinions of her own.

Lyons-Bastian, a lecturer in public speaking at NC State, noticed that more and more of her neighbors were lamenting the prevalence of unremoved dog waste, so she decided to research attitudes and behaviors around the contentious subject while earning her master’s degree in communication. Last year she shared her findings with area residents and a municipal advisory board to help create a cleaner city.

A draft of one of several prototype signs Clodagh Lyons-Bastian is creating appeals to a specific threat from not picking up dog waste.

A draft of one of several prototype signs Clodagh Lyons-Bastian is creating appeals to a specific threat from not picking up dog waste.

At the core of her study was a citywide survey of nearly 1,000 residents whose responses showed that a lack of resources may be the largest impediment to picking up. More than 60 percent of respondents said if they didn’t clean up after their pet, it was because they didn’t have a bag or receptacle.

That common response was much different from the one respondents gave for why others didn’t pick up. When asked why they thought their neighbors didn’t remove waste, most respondents said their neighbors probably thought it was “too much trouble” or that “no one would notice.”

Lyons-Bastian said that finding is consistent with the fundamental attribution error, a social psychology phenomenon she studied in her graduate work. The fundamental attribution error occurs when people attribute the actions of others to personality traits rather than to external factors that might be at play.

“That in itself shows that there is some kind of disconnect going on,” Lyons-Bastian said. “If people who pick up aren’t communicating with those who don’t pick up, they may make assumptions. ‘She’s lazy … or just nasty,’ they may assume.”

After presenting her findings, Lyons-Bastian is now creating several prototype signs based on her research that she’ll make available to the local parks board and neighborhood communities.

To see the full results of her study, visit go.ncsu.edu/TheRaleighScoop.