Effects of values on pro-environmental attitudes and behaviour: Implications for environmental campaigns

J. W. Bolderdijk; G. Perlaviciute; A. Jakovcevic; C.M.G. Foad; T. Brosch. Location: Heymanszaal

Symposium: Effects of values on pro-environmental attitudes and behaviour: Implications for environmental campaigns 

Organisers: A. Jakovcevic & G. Perlaviciute

The stronger their biospheric values (i.e. valuing nature and the environment), the more likely people are to hold pro-environmental attitudes and act sustainable. Yet, it is important to specify the conditions under which values do or do not drive attitudes and behaviour, which has important implications for environmental campaigns. This symposium hosts a selection of excellent contributions on this important topic. The first two presentations discuss the effectiveness of pro-environmental appeals in changing people’s attitudes and behaviour, as a function of individual value strength (Presentation 1) and the characteristics of the proposed sustainable solutions (Presentation 2). The next two presentations delve into the role of different values in pro-environmental attitudes and behaviour. While people engage in some pro-environmental behaviours for individual benefits, particularly biospheric values provide a strong basis for sustained pro-environmental attitudes and behaviour (Presentation 3). Yet, environmental campaigns could possibly effectively target different values, if people think that they can fulfil these values simultaneously (Presentation 4). Finally, Presentation 5 highlights the importance of integrating insights from multiple disciplines to better understand the combined effects of values, affect, and behavioural influence strategies on pro-environmental attitudes and behaviour.

Values Determine the (In)Effectiveness of Informational Interventions in Promoting Pro-Environmental Behavior 

J. W. Bolderdijk, M. Gorsira, K. Keizer, & L. Steg

Informational interventions (e.g., awareness campaigns) are based on the assumption that informing the public about the environmental consequences of their actions should result in increased pro-environmental intentions and behavior. However, empirical support for this reasoning is mixed. We argue that informational interventions may succeed in improving people’s knowledge about the environmental impact of one’s actions, but this will not gain motivational force if people do not consider protecting the environment an important personal value. In an experiment, we measured individual differences in value priorities, and either presented participants a movie clip that portrayed the negative environmental consequences of using bottled water, or a control movie. We found that the environmental movie improved recipients’ knowledge of the negative environmental impact of bottled water, but this knowledge only resulted in concomitant changes in intentions and acceptability of related policies among participants who strongly endorsed biospheric (i.e. environmental) values, while having no effect on those who care less about the environment. Interestingly, the results suggest that although informational interventions are perhaps not always successful in directly affecting less environmentally-conscious recipients, they could still exert beneficial effects, because they make those who strongly care about the environment more inclined to act on their values.

Promoting energy alternatives as sustainable: The effects of values on evaluations. Case study on natural gas in the Netherlands

G. Perlaviciute, L. Steg, & E. J. Hoekstra

Various energy alternatives such as renewables, nuclear power, and natural gas are promoted as sustainable. Yet, it depends on public acceptability what role they will play in future energy systems. People’s evaluations of energy alternatives are often value-driven: they evaluate energy alternatives positively if they see them as supporting their important values and negatively if they see them as threatening their values. Sustainability claims imply that energy alternatives have positive effects for people’s biospheric values (i.e. valuing nature and the environment). But, provided that people have strong biospheric values, will they evaluate such energy alternatives positively? We study evaluations of natural gas in the Netherlands. Traditional natural gas, typically promoted as a relatively sustainable fossil fuel, did not elicit positive evaluations among those with strong biospheric values, not even when promoted as a part of future sustainable energy systems with renewables. Interestingly, when new sustainable gas developments were introduced, separately from the traditional gas system, stronger biospheric values did lead to more positive evaluations of these innovations. While addressing people’s biospheric values could potentially strengthen support for sustainable energy transitions, our findings suggest that this is less effective when energy alternatives are closely associated with traditional fossil fuels.

Values and environmental self-identity among Public Bike Sharing System users

A. Jakovcevic, P. Franco, R. Caballero, & R. Ledesma

Although acting on the basis of egoistic considerations may result in pro-environmental behavior, environmental considerations usually provide a more stable basis for pro-environmental action. Thus, to effectively promote sustainable mobility behaviors it is crucial to understand the role of environmental motives such as biospheric values and environmental self-identity. Recent research suggests that biospheric values influence many pro-environmental intentions and behaviours via environmental self-identity. A survey study with 161 argentine users of a recent Bike Sharing System was conducted to explore the motives underlying their decision to use the bike sharing for commuting and to analyze the relationship between their biospheric values, environmental self-identity, cycling behavior and intentions. Results indicated that the main reason to adopt the bicycle as a travel mode was to save time. However, only those cyclists with stronger environmental self-identity used the system with a higher frequently and showed a stronger intention to keep on using the bicycle even if cycling costs were increased. Importantly, mediation analyses indicated that environmental self-identity mediated the relationship between biospheric values and intentions. These results suggests that while egoistic considerations conduct to bicycle use, environmental motives are necessary to sustain this travel mode choice longer in time.

The Fluidity of Values over Time

C. M. G. Foad & G. R. Maio

Values expressing opposing motivations tend to change in opposing directions (Bardi et al., 2009), while predicting relevant attitudes and behaviours in opposing directions (Schwartz, 1992, 2004).  However, research has not considered how people think their values change, and this issue is relevant to understanding how people regulate behaviour promoting the values. Two studies hence investigated how people perceive their values in the past, present, and future.  Study 1 (N=124) asked participants to consider one dimension of values, either self-transcendence and self-enhancement, or openness and conservation.  Study 2 (N=92) gave participants the same task, but with a complete range of values, and included a control group who only considered the current context.  Results across both studies showed a self-perceived upward temporal trend in the importance of self-transcendence, self-enhancement and openness values, but not conservation values.  Crucially, these self-perceptions showed parallel, non-opposing changes in self-transcendence and self-enhancement values, which often exhibit opposing motivational tendencies.  We discuss how this evidence is relevant to environmental campaigns, because it has been found that combining these values in appeals to protect the environment can backfire (e.g., Evans et al., 2013). Although past evidence suggests tensions between opposing values, people believe they can fulfil most values simultaneously.

Emotions, values and frames: Multiple determinants of individual energy consumption in an experimental decision task

T. Brosch

Several disciplines of the behavioral sciences try to explain individual energy consumption. Economic approaches focus on the maximization of self-interest in the context of financial gains and losses, perspectives based in sociology and social psychology emphasize internal attributes such as core values. More recently, also the impact of emotions has become a topic of investigation. We were interested in evaluating how these factors (availability of resources, gain/loss framing, environmental values, environmental emotions) interact to predict individual energy-relevant decisions. We used a social dilemma task where individuals shared a common resource, and had to choose between claiming a lot of the resource for themselves and constraining their consumption. We observed a reduction in participants’ consumption when resources became scarcer. We furthermore observed that participants with more pronounced self-transcendence values showed lower overall consumption. Finally, we observed an effect of environmental emotions: Participants who more frequently experienced emotions in environmental contexts showed a larger consumption reduction when resources became scarce. This effect was sensitive to framing, as it was observed in the gain frame only. Our results highlight the importance of integrating concepts from multiple disciplines such as economics, social psychology and affective science when trying to understand individual energy consumption.