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“Can you feel it?” The role of feelings in explaining pro-environmental behavior

13 November 2015

People can do something good for the environment in many different ways. Think about recycling used paper, saving energy by taking shorter showers and cycling to work instead of going by car. Many of such behaviors involve some effort or come at the expense of convenience and comfort. So why do many people still decide to act environmentally-friendly?

The findings in this PhD thesis suggest that people are not as calculating in their environmental decision-making as they are often assumed to be. Such decisions appear to be more strongly driven by feelings: people are more likely to act environmentally-friendly, when they anticipate that this will make them feel good about themselves. Feelings more strongly affect people’s environmental decision-making than how much people believe they can benefit from pro-environmental actions, for instance in terms of money. These feelings can originate from the implications of pro-environmental actions for people’s self-concept: going green signals to people that they are good and moral human beings and elicits positive feelings, a phenomenon that is also known as a ‘warm glow’. This ‘warm-glow’ may manifest itself even rather literally in the form of perceiving higher temperatures when learning one acted pro-environmentally, thus giving people a warm feeling when they act environmentally-friendly because their (moral) self-concept is boosted.

Last modified:13 November 2015 10.00 a.m.
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