A Ploy in Convincing People to Support Environmentalism.

A Ploy in Convincing People to Support Environmentalism.

There have been several research efforts done to try to increase an individual’s performance in regards to environmental activism, this is most often done by motivating a person or company through altruistic values, however not everyone is so easily convinced. In a 2009 poll of 1,001 Americans, 28% were skeptical about efforts to reduce our environmental impact, or just flat out do not believe it’s a pressing issue (Leiserowitz, Maibach, & Roser-Renouf, 2009). And while that percentile seems relatively low, in a more recent 2014 poll 50% of Americans believed that “The government is just using environmental issues as an excuse to raise taxes” (Ispsos MORI, 2014).

In this study conducted, a new method to engage environmentally sustainable behaviours was suggested. Based on the goal hierarchy and goal system theories, its proposed that an individual could subjectively chose which behaviours to engage in anonymously, to best suit their personal values, goals and identities referred to as self-concordanceΒ (Unsworth & McNeill, 2016). The study composed of two parts, the first involving a sample of Australian Adults paid to complete a survey that contained pro-environmental efforts rated on a 5 point Likert scale ranging from “Not at all important” to “Very important”, that would to contribute to six “idealized futures”. After this survey was done, participants were asked to sign either a ‘Renewable Energy Petition’, or a petition to ‘Scrap the Carbon Tax’, or to change either petition to make it more personal to the subject.

The results from the first part of the study concluded that there was a positive correlation between sustainable energy (pro-environmental) efforts and signing the ‘Renewable Energy Petition’, proving that self-concordance within the survey was associated with environmentally friendly practices (Unsworth & McNeill, 2016).

The second half of this experiment tested the intention to engage in environmentally sustainable energy behaviours (Unsworth & McNeill, 2016). Participants were randomly assigned to either a control group, or an experimental group. The objective of this second study was to increase the connections between a person’s subjective important goals, and pro-environmental behaviours. Those in the experimental group were then told pro environmental behaviours that could also achieve their subjective important goals. Some examples of statements are: “Turning off lights, changing your air-conditioner settings and other energy efficient behaviors helps you to save money” and “Commuting to work can give you time to catch up on your emails or allows you time to read or listen to audio-books” (Unsworth & McNeill, 2016).

The targeted manipulation on the experimental group proved that there was a connection in sustainable energy use and environmentally related goals, and that if the statements were tailored to better appeal to their self-concordance, they were more likely to rate them higher on the one -five Likert scale (1 being ‘Not at all important’ to 5 being ‘Very important’).

In accordance with this study, environmentally friendly practices must (unfortunately) behave similar to targeted advertising to invoke a personal response, or to prove more effective than current measures in-place. This research could be used by employers, or companies trying to raise environmental awareness/motivation by molding their efforts to best fit the behaviours of their audience.

Thank you all for reading. πŸ™‚


Unsworth, K. L., & McNeill, I. M. (2016). Increasing pro-environmental behaviors by increasing self-concordance: Testing an intervention.

Maibach, E., Roser-Renouf, C., & Leiserowitz, A. (2009). Global warming’s Six Americas 2009: an audience segmentation analysis.

Ipsos MORI. (2014). Global Trends 2014



4 thoughts on “A Ploy in Convincing People to Support Environmentalism.

  1. I enjoyed this topic a lot because when I was in elementary we went through a lot of learning about conservation and ways we could improve the environment. I was curious so I looked up more about the effects of motivation through altruism. This study found that social motivations were possibly associated with the benefits of contributing to a public good rather than the benefits of the good itself. Showing that we really are influenced by the social environments that we find ourselves surrounded in!

    Cooper, P., Poe, G. L., & Bateman, I. J. (2004). The structure of motivation for contingent values: a case study of lake water quality improvement. Ecological Economics, 50(1), 69-82.


    1. Thank you for the comment! I agree! When I was in elementary school as well, we got little pine trees to take care of. We were suppose to plant it to improve the environment or something, while i believe most of them died shortly after planting, I felt it was an effective-hands on approach to promoting environmentalism and earth friendly awareness at a young and impressionable age. πŸ™‚


  2. I enjoyed reading about your topic! πŸ™‚
    One important factor of environmentalism is accessibility.
    We had a conversation in another psychology class about veganism.
    My main point is that if being vegan was easy and accessible more people would be inclined to participate.
    According to Pimentel & Pimentel (2003) eating a primarily vegetative diet would require less land, energy and water resources. However, the biggest issue is that people do not enjoy being told what to eat. Additionally, eating meat is a lot easier than eating a vegan diet because it is more accessible.


    Pimentel, D., & Pimentel, M. (2003). Sustainability of meat-based and plant-based diets and the environment. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 78(3), 660S-663S.

    I personally enjoy baconators from Wendy’s, it is an addiction ! πŸ™‚ πŸ˜€


    1. Thanks for the comment! Wow, thats super interesting, I never thought about relating accessibility to veganism or such! It does make sense, as its easier to just order Drive-Thru meals at a fast food joint rather than buy perishable ingredients for a wholesome salad. Thanks again for the comment! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

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