Southeastern Section - 65th Annual Meeting - 2016

Paper No. 19-1
Presentation Time: 1:30 PM


POLITES, Greta, Dept of Management & Information Systems, Kent State University, BSA Room A406, 475 Terrace Drive, Kent, OH 44242 and MURRAY, David, Statesboro, GA 30458,

Fossil collecting is a popular and potentially lucrative hobby. As a consequence, amateur collectors often find themselves at odds with professional paleontologists concerning the private collection, ownership, and preservation of fossil remains. Differing perspectives, as well as poor lines of communication, can lead to misunderstandings and decreased willingness to collaborate for the greater good. Further, casual collectors may lack adequate knowledge or scientific interest, and thus have little incentive to cooperate with professionals in sharing information or donating scientifically valuable finds. As a consequence, fossil clubs and museum support organizations face ongoing challenges in motivating their members to collect ethically and sacrifice their own self interests to support scientific advances.

One reason why behavioral change is so difficult is the very nature of collecting itself as a psychological phenomenon. Extant research on the motives for consumer collecting (e.g., stamps, coins, books) emphasizes collectors’ psychological needs such as self identity, immortality, prestige, competition / domination, and achieving closure or completion in building their collections. Donating rare or valuable specimens, or sharing information on where such specimens were found, goes against a collector's natural instinct to protect the uniqueness of their collection. Clubs and museum personnel can leverage understanding of these deep-seated motives, by creating incentives that allow collectors to fulfill these psychological needs in new ways that encourage more altruistic behavior.

We draw from extant research on consumer collecting, altruism / volunteerism, and organizational culture, as well as expectancy and equity theories, to posit specific ways of motivating behavioral change. Supporting examples of successful collaborations with professional scientists are taken from the author's own experiences as an amateur working with professional invertebrate paleontologists over the past two decades. Preliminary results of a formal study on the characteristics, motivations, and collaboration experiences of amateur fossil collectors (based on textual analysis of online discussions, questionnaires, and structured interviews) provide further support for our hypotheses.