Population and Environment

, Volume 8, Issue 3–4, pp 204–222 | Cite as

Support for environmental protection: The role of moral norms

  • Paul C. Stern
  • Thomas Dietz
  • J. Stanley Black


A theoretical model is presented that traces support for environmental protection to a social-psychological process involving the activation of moral norms against harming innocent people. In a preliminary test of the model's social-psychological hypotheses, judgments about the moral obligations of industry with respect to hazardous chemicals were found to depend both on awareness of harmful consequences to people and on ascription of responsibility for those consequences to industry; government, however, was held to be morally obligated to act even if it was not responsible for the harm. Suggestions are offered for using the model to study the determinants of changing public opinion on the environment, the tactics of advocacy groups in environmental policy conflicts, and the process that mobilizes pressure for political causes in the absence of tangible group interests.


Theoretical Model Environmental Protection Harmful Consequence Group Interest Environmental Policy 
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Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul C. Stern
    • 1
  • Thomas Dietz
    • 2
  • J. Stanley Black
    • 3
  1. 1.National Research CouncilUSA
  2. 2.George Mason UniversityUSA
  3. 3.Illinois Environmental Protection AgencyUSA

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