When do values promote pro-environmental behaviors? Multilevel evidence on the self-expression hypothesis (2023)


People often differ in their amount of effort in protecting the environment. Researchers have proposed that personal values can explain people's pro-environmental actions (or lack thereof) (e.g., de Groot & Steg, 2008; Schultz & Zelezny, 1999), in which these actions are more aligned with values that emphasize the welfare of the collective (e.g., self-transcendence values; Schultz et al., 2005) and nature (e.g., biospheric value; de Groot & Steg, 2008). However, studies have also revealed that people do not always act according to their values (e.g., Lӧ;nnqvist, Leikas, Paunonen, Nissinen, & Verkasalo 2006). People may fail to take pro-environmental actions, even though they endorse pro-environmental value. It thus poses the question as to under what circumstances personal values would promote pro-environmental behaviors.

The present investigation adopts a person-context interaction approach to answer this question. I contend that individuals' engagement in pro-environmental behaviors is an expression of personal values (Bardi & Schwartz, 2003). However, individuals are not always free to express themselves; self-expression depends on societal contexts (Chan, Pong, & Tam, 2019). Accordingly, I propose that the association between personal values and pro-environmental behaviors would depend on how much the societal context allows individuals to freely express their values. I hypothesize that the values-behaviors association is stronger in contexts wherein self-expression is encouraged. With two international survey datasets, I found supporting evidence for this hypothesis. These findings elucidate when individuals’ values would guide their pro-environmental behaviors and highlight the significance of considering sociocultural contexts in the study of the relationship between values and environment-related constructs. In the following, I first review the association between values and pro-environmental behaviors and then introduce the self-expression hypothesis.

Values are trans-situational goals that guide people's evaluation of entities (e.g., person, object, social events) and selection of behaviors (Rohan, 2000; Schwartz, 1992). In the quest for universal human values, Schwartz (1992, 1994) identified two major dimensions of value types: Self-transcendence versus self-enhancement and openness to change versus conservation. The first dimension concerns the conflict between collective welfare and personal interest. Self-transcendence values refer to individuals' striving for promoting the welfare of others, the equality of in-group and outgroup people, and the protection of the natural environment, whereas self-enhancement values refer to individuals' pursuit of power and personal achievement. The second dimension concerns the conflict between independence and obedience. Openness-to-change values refer to individuals' emphasis on novelty and self-direction, whereas conservation values refer to their emphasis on maintaining social order, following traditions, and seeking stability. These two dimensions of value types have been validated in more than 80 cultural groups with diverse samples and measures (Schwartz, 2012). Empirical findings also support the robustness of these four types of values in explaining human behaviors in various domains (e.g., consumer behavior, political orientation, and voting; for a review, see Roccas & Sagiv, 2010).

In the study of pro-environmental behavior, researchers have primarily focused on the self-transcendence versus self-enhancement dimension (e.g., Schultz et al., 2005). Self-transcendence values inherently involve individuals’ emphasis on the welfare of the natural environment (Dietz, Fitzgerald, & Shwom, 2005). Further, as environmental protection often involves the sacrifice of immediate personal interest for the long-term benefit of the collective, pro-environmental attitudes and behaviors are more aligned with self-transcendence values than with self-enhancement values (Stern, Dietz, & Kalof, 1993). For example, participation in a pro-environmental campaign often offers no direct benefit to an individual (see Stern, 2000). Studies have found empirical support to the positive association between self-transcendence values and pro-environmental behaviors and the negative association between self-enhancement values and pro-environmental behaviors (e.g., Karp, 1996; Milfont, Sibley, & Duckitt, 2010; Nordlund & Garvill, 2002; Schultz et al., 2005). For example, Barber, Bishop, and Gruen (2014) found that participants who strongly endorsed self-transcendence (self-enhancement) values were more (less) willing to spend money on pro-environmental goods.

Researchers also commonly agree that values, on average, have a weak effect on pro-environmental behaviors (e.g., Schultz et al., 2005). Personal values are not the only determinant of pro-environmental behaviors. Social and situational factors (e.g., social norms, structural constraints) are also influential (Gifford, 2011; Steg & Vlek, 2009). When individuals consider these sets of factors to be more important than their values, they may base their behavioral decision on these factors instead (see Roccas & Sagiv, 2010). For example, based on four studies, Klöckner (2013) reported that the pooled correlation between self-transcendence values and pro-environmental behaviors was only 0.06 (ranging from -.05 to .17), and the pooled correlation between self-enhancement values and pro-environmental behaviors was only 0.01 (ranging from -.05 to .07).

Why do values sometimes have a weaker influence on behaviors? Although values are guiding principles of people's life, people do not always consider these principles to be relevant to a situation (Maio, 2010). Values should have a weaker influence on people's behaviors when individuals consider it to be irrelevant. For example, while some people may apply the equality principle to evaluate gender equality, they may not apply the same principle to understand the equality related to handedness (Maio, Hahn, Frost, & Cheung, 2009). When individuals do not consider their values to be relevant, they may bypass the value principles when deciding how to behave. This relevance of personal values is related to context. For example, in an experimental study, De Kwaadsteniet, van Dijk, Wit, and de Cremer (2006) demonstrated how the values-behaviors association differs across contexts. They found that participants based their decisions in a resource dilemma game on their values when the size of resources was unknown; however, when participants were certain about the size of resources, they applied the equal division rule regardless of their values. The consensual social rule makes individuals to deem their values less relevant in behavioral decision. Together, these findings illustrate that people do not always behave according to their values.

The influence of context on the values-behaviors association suggest that the influence of self-transcendence/self-enhancement values on pro-environmental behaviors may vary across sociocultural contexts. In a cross-cultural study that involves four countries, Katz-Gerro, Greenspan, Handy, and Lee (2017) found the strength of the association between values and pro-environmental behaviors varies across countries and types of behaviors. Milfont and Markowitz (2016) also found a cross-national variation in the values-behaviors association; there was a stronger association among countries with higher levels of human development. To date, few studies have systematically explained this cross-cultural variation. Cross-cultural studies have revealed that the behavioral influence of values often depends on specific cultural contexts (Boer & Fischer, 2013; Roccas & Sagiv, 2010); however, in the study of pro-environmental behaviors, most of the past studies often involved only samples from Western cultures (Bain et al., 2016; Tam & Chan, 2017). Further, in the studies that involved more than one society, the focus was often on the cross-cultural similarities (and therefore, generalizability) of the findings (e.g., Schultz et al., 2005; Schultz & Zelezny, 1999). Together, while these studies offer significant insights into the importance of values, they offer limited insights into understanding the potential impact of social and cultural contexts on the behavioral influence of values. Accordingly, how these contexts would influence the extent to which self-transcendence values and self-enhancement values are translated into pro-environmental behaviors remains to be an open question.

Under what contexts would individuals refer to their self-transcendence or self-enhancement values in making an environmental decision? The present investigation answers this question by adopting a person-context interaction approach. This approach proposes that human behavior is determined not only by individuals’ internal attributes (e.g., personal values) but also by what the broader sociocultural context allows them to do (i.e., affordance). It is therefore reasonable to expect that the association between self-transcendence values/self-enhancement values and pro-environmental behaviors would vary across sociocultural contexts.

People engage in value-consistent behaviors as a way to express themselves (e.g., Bardi & Schwartz, 2003), which helps maintain self-consistency and facilitate the attainment of important values (Roccas & Sagiv, 2010; Rokeach, 1973). Individuals are not always encouraged to express oneself; the self-expression depends on the affordance in the societal contexts (Fischer & Boer, 2015). Some sociocultural contexts are more restrictive, in which people are encouraged to follow social norms and regulations rather than to express oneself (Chan et al., 2019). When self-expression is downplayed, personal values will become less relevant to construing and understanding a situation. When personal values are deemed to be of low relevance, individuals will rely on other factors in behavioral decisions (e.g., social norms). Accordingly, the relevance of personal values would be lower under these restrictive contexts, while the relevance of external factors (e.g., social norms, assigned roles) would be higher. Consequently, individuals are more likely to bypass their values when making decisions; thus, it results in a weaker association between values and behaviors. Following this logic, I contend that the association between values and pro-environmental behaviors would depend on the level of restrictiveness of the sociocultural contexts on self-expression. I refer to this account as the self-expression hypothesis.

Based on cross-cultural psychology studies (e.g., Kim & Markus, 1999; Suh, 2002), some cultures prioritize context dependence (e.g., collectivism) over personal agency (e.g., individualism). In these cultural contexts, people are deemed to adjust themselves according to social and contextual cues, while expressing one's values can be regarded as immature and inappropriate (Markus & Kitayama, 1994). For example, people in collectivistic cultures are more likely to view the inconsistency of oneself across situations as a sign of maturity (Suh, 2002). They also exhibit more tolerance of the inconsistency between values and behaviors and are more flexible to adjust their behaviors according to situational cues (e.g., social norms; Kashima, Siegal, Tanaka, & Kashima, 1992). Consequently, personal values are deemed less relevant to how one should behave in a situation. In societies that emphasize context dependence, there should be a weaker influence of values on people's attitudes and behaviors. In contrast, in societies that emphasize personal agency, individuals should more readily base their behaviors on personal values. Findings from past studies support this notion. For example, Kim and Sherman (2007) found that when making a decision, participants from individualistic cultures exhibited a stronger emphasis on expressing oneself than participants from collectivistic cultures did. Similarly, in a 31-country meta-analysis, Boer and Fischer (2013) found that the association between values and social attitudes was weaker in societies that emphasized norm validation and collectivism. Accordingly, I expect that the association between values and pro-environmental behaviors be weaker in societies that emphasize context dependence over personal agency.

The socio-ecological perspective offers another theoretical angle to the cross-cultural differences in the emphasis on self-expression (Oishi, 2014). This perspective posits that individuals construct and adopt strategies that enable them to cope with challenges posed by socio-economic and physical contexts. Accordingly, the extent to which one can freely express oneself is also related to the social ecology of society. A social ecology may reduce the relevance of personal values when staying with a large group is the optimal strategy for one to survive (Welzel & Inglehart, 2010; Yamagishi, Hashimoto, Li, & Schug, 2012). For example, under economic scarcity, staying with a large group can enhance people's chances to thrive, because a large group often has more social and economic resources (Welzel & Inglehart, 2010). Instead of expressing oneself, compliance with norms and social regulations can lower individuals' risks of being ostracized from the group and thereby enhance their chances to stay with the in-group (Welzel & Inglehart, 2010). Furthermore, the emphasis of in-group cohesion may create a stronger concern about social monitoring, in which individuals may pay more attention to others' evaluations and judgments. Accordingly, it is crucial for them to adjust oneself according to social expectation. The urban versus non-urban living exemplifies such social and economic constraints, given that non-urban regions often have lowered level of economic development and emphasized tight-knit social relationship. Yamagishi et al. (2012) found supportive evidence of this notion. They found that participants living in non-urbanized regions were less likely to choose a gift based on their personal preference than participants living in more urbanized regions were. Instead, these participants were more likely to choose a gift based on the majority rule.

Social information shared by the group also serves as guidance for how people could cope with ecological threats. Studies have identified two types of such threats. The first type is the threat of infectious disease. When there is an outbreak of infectious disease, the risk of being infected is lowered if one stays with their in-group and follows the safety practices of the group, given that the sanity of the ingroup is assumed (Schaller, 2016). Supporting this view, cross-cultural studies have found that societies with a higher prevalence of infectious diseases exhibit a stronger emphasis on norm compliance (e.g., Gelfand et al., 2011; Murray, Trudeau, & Schaller, 2011). The second type is the thermal climate. Under harsh thermal climates, social information can serve as a useful tool for people to make good use of the limited time and resource. Instead of experimenting a novel way to thrive, people tend to follow the successful and safety practices of their fellow members. It is noteworthy that climatic demand does not necessarily come with economic and resource scarcity (Van de Vliert, 2009). For example, Nordic countries are rich and developed, despite having more demanding climate. According to the climato-economic theory (Van de Vliert, 2009, 2011), when there are plenty of resources, individuals do not need to stay with the group to thrive, and thus, enjoy more freedom to make decisions based on their values. Accordingly, the impact of climatic demand on self-expression would also depend on the availability of national resources to cope with the threat. Supporting this notion, Van de Vliert (2013) found that participants enjoyed more freedom in richer and harsher thermal climates. Together, based on the socio-ecological perspective, I contend that self-expression is deemed to be less desirable in societies with higher levels of socio-economic constraints and ecological threats. Accordingly, I expect that the association between values and pro-environmental behaviors be weaker in societies with higher levels of socio-economic constraints and higher levels of ecological threats.

This study adopts a person-context interaction approach to understand the association between self-transcendence values/self-enhancement values and pro-environmental behaviors. More specifically, I contend that individuals sometimes do not rely on their values as guidance of their behaviors; it depends on how much the sociocultural contexts allow them to express oneself freely. When self-expression is restricted, the relevance of personal values in behavioral decision is low. Consequently, personal values would have a weaker influence on behaviors. I refer to this proposition as the self-expression hypothesis. Based on cross-cultural psychology, I hypothesize that in societies with a lower cultural emphasis on personal agency, there is a weaker association between self-transcendence values/self-enhancement values and pro-environmental behaviors (Hypothesis 1). Based on the socio-ecological perspectives, I hypothesize that in societies with higher levels of economic constraints and higher levels of ecological threats, there is also a weaker association between these values and pro-environmental behaviors (Hypotheses 2 and 3). Furthermore, based on the climato-economic theory (Van de Vliert, 2009), I also explore whether climatic demand and economic resource jointly influence the association between the two types of values and pro-environmental behaviors. That is, I also test a climatic demand X economic resource X values three way interaction.

To examine this hypothesis, I conducted two sets of multilevel analyses on datasets from the fifth wave (WVS-5) and sixth wave (WVS-6) of the World Value Survey. Both datasets contained standardized measures of individual-level self-transcendence values, self-enhancement values, and pro-environmental behaviors across many societies. I also obtained the societal-level data from cross-cultural psychology studies (e.g., Boer & Fischer, 2013; Gelfand et al., 2011), with all indicators being widely used in the literature.

  • Antecedents of environmental values and pro-environmental behavior intentions: A self-determination theory approach

    2023, Journal of Environmental Psychology

    There is undeniable scientific evidence for anthropogenic (i.e., human-caused) environmental degradation. However, there is no leading theory in environmental psychology that explains how human behavior contributes to such degradation. Accordingly, the present research sought to apply the framework of self-determination theory to examine antecedents of environmental values and pro-environmental behavior intentions. In two cross-sectional studies and one longitudinal study (Ns=293, 187, and 275, respectively), a conceptual model was tested in which there are indirect effects of intrinsic and extrinsic aspirations on pro-environmental behavior intentions through ecocentric and anthropocentric values. In general, this conceptual model was supported, although the findings suggested that anthropocentric (relative to ecocentric) values offer a more robust explanation of the association between aspirations and pro-environmental behavior intentions. The discussion focuses on the theoretical and practical implications of this research, especially regarding the importance of framing governmental policies and educational programs around intrinsic (rather than extrinsic) aspirations.

  • Determining the influence of food user value on the intention to waste tomatoes at home

    2023, Resources, Environment and Sustainability

    To date, there is no evidence on how food user value influences the intention to waste food at home. We experimentally tested the influence of the freshness of tomatoes and them being grown in/on one’s garden/balcony on the intention to waste tomatoes at home (n = 454). We uncovered a significantly lower intention to waste them if they were described as still fresh (versus no longer fresh) and a lower intention to waste them if they were homegrown (versus bought). It did not make a difference whether fresh tomatoes were store-bought or homegrown. However, once the tomatoes were no longer fresh, the purchased tomatoes were much more likely to be thrown away than the homegrown tomatoes.

  • Does belief in climate change conspiracy theories predict everyday life pro-environmental behaviors? Testing the longitudinal relationship in China and the U.S.

    2023, Journal of Environmental Psychology

    While the harmful effects of climate change have become more observable and tangible, there are still conspiracy theory narratives suggesting that climate change is a hoax and invented to mislead the public. Previous research has shown that belief in or exposure to such conspiracy narratives has negative downstream consequences for addressing climate change, including stronger climate skepticism, weaker climate policy support, and weaker pro-environmental behavioral intention. Yet, the literature is limited in terms of understanding the impact of belief in climate change conspiracy theories on everyday life pro-environmental behaviors longitudinally and outside the U.S. context. The present research thus advances the literature by examining the longitudinal relationship between belief in climate change conspiracy theories and everyday life (i.e., private-sphere) pro-environmental behaviors in mainland China (Study 1: N=1200; two-waves) and the U.S. (Study 2: N=1001; five-waves). In both studies, we found consistent evidence that belief in climate change conspiracy theories was related to less engagement in everyday life pro-environmental behaviors concurrently and longitudinally. Our findings suggest that belief in climate change conspiracy theories could have a negative consequence on daily pro-environmental behaviors and highlight the need to understand the impact of such belief beyond the U.S. context.

  • Political divide in climate change opinions is stronger in some countries and some U.S. states than others: Testing the self-expression hypothesis and the fossil fuel reliance hypothesis

    2023, Journal of Environmental Psychology

    Despite the accumulation of evidence for the human causes of climate change, there is still a political divide in climate change opinions. Importantly, the strength of this political divide appears to vary across countries and across states within the United States. In this research, we proposed the self-expression hypothesis and the fossil fuel reliance hypothesis to explain these cross-national and within-country variations. We expected that the strength of the political orientation-climate change opinions link to be stronger among countries and states with a stronger emphasis on self-expression, higher levels of fossil fuel consumption, and greater economic interests associated with fossil fuels. We tested these hypotheses with two international data sets (Studies 1 and 2) and a U.S. state-level data set (Study 3). We found supporting evidence for the self-expression hypothesis and mixed evidence for the fossil fuel reliance hypothesis; fossil fuel consumption was related to a larger political divide between countries but a smaller political divide between states within the United States. These findings highlight the need to consider the role of cultural and socio-ecological factors in the political divide in climate change opinions. As we observed both similarities and differences between the two levels of analysis, our findings also suggest the need to consider how these factors modulate the influence of political orientation on climate change opinions both within and between countries.

  • O tempora! O mores! Cultural modernisation and nudity depiction in European cinema

    2023, Poetics

    This paper analyses the film industry as a social phenomenon through the lens of revised modernisation theory. Revised modernisation theory implies that economic development leads to value shift which eventually results in the spread of more liberal social attitudes, including the greater acceptance of sexual freedoms, gender equality, and overall tolerance. These changes penetrate all spheres of social life, including the field of cultural production. Here, one can expect that topics and visual tools employed by filmmakers reflect the ongoing changes. This research focuses particularly on the presence of female and male nudity in films. We use the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) as a dataset that reflects changes in modern societies, as we believe that IMDB represents a vast area underexplored by social scientists. Using IMDb and European Value Study data, we juxtapose the presence of general, female, and male nudity in films and the prevalence of choice values in the given year and country. The sample consists of films produced in 40 European countries between 1960 and 2013. Relying on the IMDb data we identify 34 291 films, with approximately a quarter of them depicting nudity. Using multilevel regression analysis, we find that the probability of female nudity is associated with the prevalence of choice values, whereas male nudity is more likely to appear in films related to the topic of homosexuality. Overall, the paper shows that value changes are reflected through the depiction of female bodies, however, the spread of choice values do not lift the restrictions on the presentation of men.

  • Predicting priority of environmental protection over economic growth using macroeconomic and individual-level predictors: Evidence from machine learning

    2022, Journal of Environmental Psychology

    Individual priority of environmental protection over economic growth is predicted by macroeconomic contexts, demographics, and psychological processes. Corresponding supportive evidence exists for each category of predictors, but limited work has synthesized them. The present study attempted to build a parsimonious model to properly predict this priority by simultaneously considering various predictors. According to prior knowledge, we selected seven macroeconomic, six demographical, and 20 psychological predictors from the World Values Survey (wave 6, 51,348 participants from 47 countries/regions). Using the machine learning approach, we first screened these predictors using a series of variable selection algorithms; then, we trained random forest models to predict the individual environment protection priority. Eight predictors were retained as the most parsimonious predictor set, and the corresponding model achieved an estimated Out-Of-Bag error rate of 34.15%. The retained predictors were Gross Domestic Product growth rate, Gross Domestic Product per capita, carbon dioxide productivity, biospheric value, post-materialistic value, sense of responsibility, self-expansion identity, and attitude toward science and technology, listed in descending order of importance. Partial dependence plots revealed that most of these predictors were non-linearly related to the outcome. These findings highlight the importance of considering macroeconomic and psychological predictors and their non-linear effects for better understanding the antecedents of environmental concern.

View all citing articles on Scopus
  • Research article

    Fostering sustainable behavior through group competition

    Journal of Environmental Psychology, Volume 71, 2020, Article 101493

    The challenge of handling the Earth's shared, limited resources calls for strategies that promote sustainable behavior. We examine whether competition between groups can foster sustainable behavior and whether dispositional competitiveness moderates this effect. In two well-powered, pre-registered studies (total N=1946), participants took part in a common resource microworld, in which they shared a simulated fishery with three computer-controlled fishers whom they believed were real people and who either behaved sustainably or unsustainably. Participants were assigned to one of two conditions: In the competition condition, they were invited to compete to be named the most sustainable group, while participants in the control condition received no such invitation. Additionally, we assessed participants' dispositional competitiveness. Our results show that (1) group competition increased sustainable resource management, both when the other group members behaved sustainably and when the other group members behaved unsustainably, and (2) dispositional competitiveness was negatively associated with sustainable behavior when the other group members overused the common resource. There was, however, no significant evidence for an interaction effect between group competition and dispositional competitiveness. The present study therefore introduces competition between groups as a valuable means to fostering sustainable behavior.

  • Research article

    Measuring environmental concern through international surveys: A study of cross-cultural equivalence with item response theory and confirmatory factor analysis

    Journal of Environmental Psychology, Volume 71, 2020, Article 101494

    This article explores the cross-cultural equivalence of two composite measures of environmental concern derived from the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP): the pro-environmental views scale (PEVS) and the environmental awareness scale (EAS). Item response theory and multigroup confirmatory factor analysis were employed to evaluate comprehensively the target measures while focusing on a concrete cross-cultural comparison between Taiwan and the UK. The results indicated that both measures show nonequivalence to different extents. The PEVS presents substantial problems of validity in Taiwan, whereas in the UK it is a meaningful unidimensional measure if one item is excluded. Difficulties with construct equivalence, translation, and method bias were identified as potential causes of the scale's nonequivalence. The EAS is a suitable measure within both cultures, but it is affected by the cumulative effect of differential item functioning (DIF) that makes the comparison of group means imprecise. Taiwanese respondents' salient tendency to endorse higher response categories than expected for their latent levels of EA was determined as a potential cause of DIF, which may be related to bias induced by the response categories' labels. Above all, this study reminds the importance of examining carefully the measurements employed in cross-cultural research to avoid reporting findings that could be potentially misleading.

  • Research article

    Explaining the difference between the predictive power of value orientations and self-determined motivation for proenvironmental behavior

    Journal of Environmental Psychology, Volume 73, 2021, Article 101555

    Previous research has shown that biospheric, altruistic, and egoistic values explain more variance in proenvironmental behavior than explained by the self-determined motivation that is linked to such behavior (i.e. motivation fueled by the fulfilment of basic psychological needs). However, these findings might stem from the relatively narrow measures of proenvironmental behavior employed in these studies. In two studies, we investigated the predictive power of self-determined motivation and value orientations in explaining broader measures of self-reported proenvironmental behavior. Our results support our expectation that self-determined motivation would remain a significant predictor of proenvironmental behavior after controlling for value orientations. In line with our expectations, self-determined motivation (vs. values) was more predictive of behavior that was predominantly guided by environmental motives. We discuss the implications of these results for the prediction of proenvironmental behavior.

  • Research article

    Can positive and self-transcendent emotions promote pro-environmental behavior?

    Current Opinion in Psychology, Volume 42, 2021, pp. 31-35

    Many scholars have suggested that people could improve their well-being by developing closer connections with natureand that this would also promote the sustainable behaviors needed to address climate change. Research generally corroborates this idea, but few studies have examined the more specific hypothesis that positive emotions (caused by nature or otherwise) can directly influence pro-environmental behaviors. In particular, self-transcendent emotions such as awe, compassion, and gratitude can be prompted by nature, and they seem to foster prosocial behaviors. Most pro-environmental behaviors are also prosocial; they require cooperation and they benefit others. Some recent studies suggest that self-transcendent emotions can cause pro-environmental behavior, although results are mixed overall. We identify strategies for future research to resolve these inconclusive suggestions.

  • Research article

    Concern for the future and saving the earth: When does ecological resource scarcity promote pro-environmental behavior?

    Journal of Environmental Psychology, Volume 72, 2020, Article 101501

    With the continuous growth of the global population and the increasing demand for natural resources, ecological resource scarcity has become a global issue that cannot be ignored. However, little is known about individuals' environment-related responses to ecological resource scarcity. Will people save resources for the future or consume them for immediate interests when resources become scarce? Drawing on the life history theory and construal level theory, we propose that individuals' environment-related responses to ecological resource scarcity depend on levels of future orientation. Analyses of multilevel data from 30 countries found that only in highly future-oriented countries could objective ecological resource scarcity positively predict individuals’ daily pro-environmental behaviors (Study 1). Two subsequent studies at the individual level again established the moderating effect of future orientation on the link between perceived ecological resource scarcity and pro-environmental behaviors (Studies 2 & 3), and the causal effect was also clarified (Study 3). Specifically, only for future-oriented people, perceived ecological resource scarcity or reminders of it could positively promote pro-environmental behaviors. We further verified the moderation hypothesis with water-saving posters to explore potential practical implications, i.e., whether the poster with water shortage information would have an effective promotional effect only when information about “concern for the future” is presented (Study 4). We concluded with a discussion of the theoretical and practical implications of the research findings.

  • Research article

    Self-transcendent emotion dispositions: Greater connections with nature and more sustainable behavior

    Journal of Environmental Psychology, Volume 81, 2022, Article 101797

    In three studies, we explored how different classes of positive emotion dispositions may have different relations with pro-environmental outcomes despite sharing positive valence. We hypothesized that self-transcendent emotions (awe, compassion, love) would relate to more sustainable behaviors, beliefs, values, and self-nature representations because these emotions support a prosocial mindset and broaden the self-concept. Conversely, we hypothesized that self-interested emotions (joy, contentment, pride, amusement) would not relate to more of these pro-environmental outcomes and would instead predict more self-orientated beliefs and values because these emotions involve a greater self-focus. In Study 1, self-transcendent emotions uniquely predicted greater self-reported pro-environmental behavior, biospheric concern, nature connectedness, and more sustainable self-nature representations, whereas self-interested emotions did not and instead predicted greater egoistic concern. Study 2 aimed to replicate these findings and added measures of values and political beliefs. For self-transcendent emotions, the results of Study 1 were replicated, and it was also found that they uniquely predicted greater endorsement of self-transcendent values and less political conservatism. Self-interested emotions uniquely predicted less pro-environmental behavior and greater endorsement of self-enhancement values and conservative beliefs. Finally, Study 3 found that self-transcendent emotions but not self-interested emotions uniquely predicted more actual recycling weeks later. Implications for the intersection of positive emotions research and sustainability are discussed.

© 2019 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Rev. Porsche Oberbrunner

Last Updated: 04/04/2023

Views: 5862

Rating: 4.2 / 5 (53 voted)

Reviews: 84% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Rev. Porsche Oberbrunner

Birthday: 1994-06-25

Address: Suite 153 582 Lubowitz Walks, Port Alfredoborough, IN 72879-2838

Phone: +128413562823324

Job: IT Strategist

Hobby: Video gaming, Basketball, Web surfing, Book restoration, Jogging, Shooting, Fishing

Introduction: My name is Rev. Porsche Oberbrunner, I am a zany, graceful, talented, witty, determined, shiny, enchanting person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.