Guilty conscience: motivating pro-environmental behavior by inducing negative moral emotions
- 2.8k Downloads
Conceptual frameworks in the realm of climate-related policy, attitudes and behavior frequently argue that moral emotions play a crucial role in mobilizing pro-environmental action. Yet, little is known about the direct impact of moral emotions on environmental attitudes and behavior. Drawing on emotion research in the context of intergroup relations, the current paper investigates the role of guilty conscience (guilt and shame) as well as other emotions (anger, sadness, pride, and emotional coldness) in motivating pro-environmental behavior intentions and actual behavior as a specific form of reparative action. When confronted with human-caused (vs. seemingly natural) environmental damages, participants (N = 114) reported significantly more guilty conscience. Importantly, participants in the human-caused condition were significantly more likely to spontaneously display actual pro-environmental behavior (sign a petition addressing environmental issues). Highlighting its psychological significance in motivating pro-environmental behavior, a guilty conscience mediated the experimental manipulation’s effect on behavioral intentions as well as on actual behavior. We conclude by discussing the potential of moral emotions in developing timely and sustainable climate policies and interventions.
KeywordsActual Behavior Behavioral Intention Environmental Damage Environmental Behavior Moral Emotion
The research presented in this paper was facilitated by the North Rhine-Westphalian Ministry for Innovation, Science, and Research. The authors would like to thank Gerd Bohner, Marco Grasso, Megan Hurst, Ezra Markowitz, Susanne Täuber, and three anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this manuscript.
- Allpress JA, Barlow FK, Brown R, Louis WR (2010) Atoning for colonial injustices: group-based shame and guilt motivate support for reparation. Int J Confl Violence 4:75–88Google Scholar
- Costello AB, Osborne JW (2005) Best practices in exploratory factor analysis: four recommendations for getting the most from your analysis. Pract Assess Res Eval 10:1–9Google Scholar
- Expedition Med (2013) Stop plastic in the sea [Available online http://www.expeditionmed.eu/fr/en/]
- Frijda NH (1986) The emotions. University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
- Gausel N (2012) Facing in-group immorality: differentiating expressed shame from expressed guilt. Rev Eur Stud 4Google Scholar
- Giner-Sorolla R (2013) Judging passions: Moral emotions in persons and groups. Psychology Press, HoveGoogle Scholar
- Hayes AF (2013) Introduction to mediation, moderation, and conditional process analysis: A regression-based approach. Guilford Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Lewis HB (1971) Shame and guilt in neurosis. International Universities Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Schwartz SH (1977) Normative influence on altruism. In: Berkowitz L (ed) Advances in experimental social psychology, Vol 10. Academic, New York, pp 221–279Google Scholar
- Sustrans – The Sustainable Transport Charity (2009) Travelsmart Project Review. Sustrans, BristolGoogle Scholar
- The National Academies of Science (2008) Understanding and responding to climate change. Retrieved December 27, 2013 from: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb1048006.pdf