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-concordance (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. 🙂
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