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About us Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences Psychology Research Units Environmental Psychology

The value of environmental self-identity

Social Psychology

To overcome environmental problems we need to know what important antecedents of environmental behaviour are. Environmental self-identity can be defined as the extent to which you see yourself as an environmentally-friendly person. We found that it is indeed related to a range of pro-environmental actions, for example, energy use and preference for sustainable products. We found that environmental self-identity is partly stable, as it is influenced by one’s biospheric values. Biospheric values even predicted environmental self-identity at a later moment in time and after a manipulation of environmental self-identity. However, environmental self-identity can also be changed to a certain extent. Based on self-perception theory we studied whether reminding people of their past behaviour influences their environmental self-identity. We indeed found that when people realize that they often acted environmentally-friendly in the past their environmental self-identity was strengthened which in turn promoted pro-environmental actions. When people realized they rarely acted environmentally-friendly in the past their environmental self-identity was weakened and they were less likely to act pro-environmental. However, past behaviour only influenced environmental self-identity when the signalling strength of the past behaviour was high. Only

Main project

This project is part of project "Spill-over of initial pro-environmental actions to other pro-environmental behaviours".

Researchers and partners

Behavioural and Social Sciences, Psychology
  • Kees Keizer, Social Psychology
  • Linda Steg, Social Psychology
  • Ellen van der Werff, Social Psychology


  • Van der Werff, E., Steg, L., & Keizer, K. (2014). Follow the signal: When past pro-environmental actions signal who you are. Journal of Environmental Psychology,40, 273-282.
  • Van der Werff, E., Steg, L., & Keizer, K. (2014). I am what I am, by looking past the present: The influence of biospheric values and past behaviour on environmental self-identity. Environment and Behavior, 46(5), 626-657. doi. 10.1177/0013916512475209
  • Van der Werff, E., Steg, L., & Keizer, K. (2013). It is a moral issue: The relationship between environmental self-identity, obligation-based intrinsic motivation and pro-environmental behaviour. Global Environmental Change, 23, 1258-1265.
  • Van der Werff, E., Steg, L., & Keizer, K. (2013). The value of environmental self-identity: The relationship between biospheric values, environmental self-identity and environmental preferences, intentions and behavior. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 34, 55-63.

University's focus areas

  • Sustainable Society
Last modified:29 March 2021 10.17 a.m.
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