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Values Determine the (In)Effectiveness of Informational Interventions in Promoting Pro-Environmental Behavior

Authors
Journal
PLoS ONE
1932-6203
Publisher
Public Library of Science
Publication Date
Volume
8
Issue
12
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0083911
Keywords
  • Research Article
Disciplines
  • Ecology
  • Geography

Abstract

Informational interventions (e.g., awareness campaigns, carbon footprint calculators) are built on the assumption that informing the public about the environmental consequences of their actions should result in increased pro-environmental intentions and behavior. However, empirical support for this reasoning is mixed. In this paper, we argue that informational interventions may succeed in improving people’s knowledge about the negative environmental consequences of one’s actions, but this knowledge will not gain motivational force if people do not consider protecting the environment an important personal value. In an experiment, we measured individual differences in value priorities, and either presented participants a movie clip that portrayed the negative environmental consequences of using bottled water, or a control movie. As predicted, we found that the environmental movie improved recipients’ knowledge of the negative environmental impact of bottled water, but this knowledge only resulted in concomitant changes in intentions and acceptability of related policies among participants who strongly endorsed biospheric (i.e. environmental) values, while having no effect on those who care less about the environment. Interestingly, the results suggest that although informational interventions are perhaps not always successful in directly affecting less environmentally-conscious recipients, they could still have beneficial effects, because they make those who strongly care about the environment more inclined to act on their values.

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