Why going green feels good

Venhoeven, L. A., Bolderdijk, J. W. & Steg, L., 22-Aug-2020, (Accepted/In press) In : Journal of Environmental Psychology. 71, 101492.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Re​cent re​search found that when asked ex​plic​itly, peo​ple as​so​ci​ate (fu​ture) sus​tain​able ac​tions with pos​i​‐ tive in​stead of neg​a​tive emo​tions. This em​pir​i​cal find​ing im​plies that pol​icy mak​ers could har​ness peo​ple's in​trin​sic mo​ti​va​tion to pro​mote sus​tain​able ac​tions. It is how​ever not clear where this as​so​ci​a​tion be​tween sus​tain​able ac​tions and pos​i​tive emo​tions stems from. Why would peo​ple re​port that go​ing green feels good, given that such ac​tions of​ten re​quire more ef​fort or in​con​ve​nience? We ar​gue and show that the pre​‐ vi​ously found re​la​tion​ship be​tween sus​tain​able ac​tions and an​tic​i​pated pos​i​tive emo​tions is not merely a mat​ter of so​cial de​sir​abil​ity, but rather a mat​ter of mean​ing: act​ing sus​tain​ably is of​ten per​ceived as a moral choice and thus as a mean​ing​ful course of ac​tion, which can elicit pos​i​tive emo​tions. Specif​i​cally, we found that par​tic​i​pants also as​so​ci​ate sus​tain​able ac​tions with pos​i​tive in​stead of neg​a​tive emo​tions when us​ing an im​plicit as​so​ci​a​tion mea​sure – one that re​duces the like​li​hood of so​cially de​sir​able re​sponses (Study 1). More​over, par​tic​i​pants an​tic​i​pated more in​tense emo​tions when those ac​tions were mean​ing​ful to them: they felt more pos​i​tive about sus​tain​able ac​tions, and more neg​a​tive about un​sus​tain​able ac​tions, when they chose to en​gage in those ac​tions and when those ac​tions are con​sid​ered per​son​ally rel​e​vant to the in​di​vid​ual (Study 2). To​gether, these stud​ies ex​plain why act​ing green feels good, and sup​port the no​‐ tion that sus​tain​able ac​tions are in​deed ex​pected (not merely re​ported) to be in​trin​si​cally mo​ti​vat​ing.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101492
JournalJournal of Environmental Psychology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 22-Aug-2020

ID: 132024245