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The intrinsic route to pro-environmental behaviour

PhD ceremony:Ms N. (Nadja) Zeiske
When:October 14, 2021
Start:12:45
Supervisor:prof. dr. E.M. (Linda) Steg
Co-supervisor:dr. E. (Ellen) van der Werff, PhD
Where:Academy building RUG
Faculty:Behavioural and Social Sciences
The intrinsic route to pro-environmental behaviour

Our actions can have negative consequences for the environment. In order to mitigate environmental problems, people need to consistently engage in many different types of pro-environmental behaviours. However, pro-environmental behaviours are oftentimes costlier or more effortful than their conventional counter parts. Despite the personal costs associated with pro-environmental behaviours, many people do engage in many different types of pro-environmental behaviours. Why is this the case?

In this dissertation, we propose that people engage in pro-environmental behaviours because they are intrinsically motivated to do so. Across four empirical chapters, we systematically studied the relationship between intrinsic motivation and different pro-environmental behaviours. We found that intrinsic motivation is an important factor associated with different pro-environmental behaviours. Moreover, we found that intrinsic motivation remains an important factor associated with pro-environmental behaviour, even after controlling for the perceived personal costs and benefits associated with the behaviour. Furthermore, and contrary to our expectations, we did not find that intrinsic motivation is weakened in the presence of a financial incentive. Finally, we found that intrinsic motivation can be strengthened through frequent provision of information targeting the values, principles and personal norms in which intrinsic motivation is rooted in. In turn, we found that a stronger intrinsic motivation was associated with more pro-environmental behaviour change.

In sum, this dissertation shows that intrinsic motivation to protect the environment is an important, unique and stable factor related to pro-environmental behaviour, which can be strengthened to further promote pro-environmental action.