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A tale of two identities

The role of environmental self-identity and environmental group-identity in motivating pro-environmental behaviour
PhD ceremony:Ms X. (Xiao) Wang
When:September 14, 2023
Supervisors:prof. dr. E. (Ellen) van der Werff, prof. dr. E.M. (Linda) Steg, prof. dr. M.K. Harder
Co-supervisor:T. (Thijs) Bouman, PhD
Where:Academy building RUG
Faculty:Behavioural and Social Sciences
A tale of two identities

In this dissertation, we proposed that environmental group-identity, in addition to environmental self-identity, can encourage individual pro-environmental behaviour in different domains, such as energy conservation, green purchasing, daily travelling, and recycling. We investigated the relationship between environmental self-identity, environmental group-identity, and pro-environmental behaviour, and whether comparable results would be found in China and Europe (i.e., the Netherlands and the UK). We found that a stronger environmental self-identity and a stronger environmental group-identity are indeed related to stronger pro-environmental behavioural intentions and actual engagement in pro-environmental behaviour across countries. Environmental group-identity was found to have a partly indirect effect on pro-environmental actions via environmental self-identity. Yet, environmental group-identity was sometimes also directly associated with pro-environmental actions. Interestingly, manipulations that were aimed at strengthening both environmental group- and self-identities did not motivate pro-environmental behaviour more strongly than interventions that strengthened only environmental self- or group-identity. Our findings suggest that stronger personal and group biospheric values are related to a stronger environmental self-identity and environmental group-identity, respectively, which in turn encourage pro-environmental actions. Importantly, environmental self-identity and environmental group-identity can be strengthened by reminding people of their own or their group’s past pro-environmental behaviour together with feedback messages; however, it seems less effective to change environmental group-identity through comparing individuals’ in-group with an out-group that is perceived more pro-environmental or less pro-environmental.