Advertisement

Climatic Change

, Volume 130, Issue 3, pp 439–452 | Cite as

Guilty conscience: motivating pro-environmental behavior by inducing negative moral emotions

  • Jonas H. ReesEmail author
  • Sabine Klug
  • Sebastian Bamberg
Article

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Actual Behavior Behavioral Intention Environmental Damage Environmental Behavior Moral Emotion 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Notes

Acknowledgments

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.

Supplementary material

10584_2014_1278_MOESM1_ESM.doc (26 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 26 kb)

References

  1. Abrahamse W, Steg L, Vlek C, Rothengatter T (2005) A review of intervention studies aimed at household energy conservation. J Environ Psychol 25:273–291CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ajzen I (1991) The theory of planned behavior. Organ Behav Hum Decis Process 50:179–211CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 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
  4. Allpress JA, Brown R, Giner-Sorolla R, Deonna JA, Teroni F (2014) Two faces of group-based shame: moral shame and image shame differentially predict positive and negative orientations to in group wrongdoing. Pers Soc Psychol Bull 40(10):1270–1284CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bamberg S, Möser G (2007) Twenty years after Hines, Hungerford, and tomera: a new meta-analysis of psycho-social determinants of pro-environmental behaviour. J Environ Psychol 27:14–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Baron RM, Kenny DA (1986) The moderator-mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: conceptual, strategic and statistical considerations. J Pers Soc Psychol 51:1173–1182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Böhm G (2003) Emotional reactions to environmental risks: consequentialist versus ethical evaluation. J Environ Psychol 23:199–212CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Böhm G, Pfister HR (2000) Action tendencies and characteristics of environmental risks. Acta Psychol 104:317–337CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brown R, Čehajić S (2008) Dealing with the past and facing the future: mediators of the effects of collective guilt and shame in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Eur J Soc Psychol 38:669–684CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brown R, González R, Zagefka H, Manzi J, Čehajić S (2008) Nuestra culpa: collective guilt and shame as predictors of reparation for historical wrongdoing. J Pers Soc Psychol 94:75–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 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
  12. de Hooge IE, Breugelmans SM, Zeelenberg M (2008) Not so ugly after all: when shame acts as a commitment device. J Pers Soc Psychol 95:933–943CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Deonna JA, Rodogno R, Teroni F (2011) In defense of shame: The faces of an emotion. Oxford University Press, NewYorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Doosje B, Branscombe NR, Spears R, Manstead ASR (1998) Guilty by association: when one’s group has a negative history. J Pers Soc Psychol 75:872–886CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Expedition Med (2013) Stop plastic in the sea [Available online http://www.expeditionmed.eu/fr/en/]
  16. Ferguson MA, Branscombe NR (2010) Collective guilt mediates the effect of beliefs about global warming on willingness to engage in mitigation behavior. J Environ Psychol 30:135–142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Frijda NH (1986) The emotions. University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  18. Frijda NH, Kuipers P, ter Schure E (1989) Relations among emotion, appraisal, and emotional action readiness. J Pers Soc Psychol 57:212–228CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gausel N (2012) Facing in-group immorality: differentiating expressed shame from expressed guilt. Rev Eur Stud 4Google Scholar
  20. Gausel N, Brown R (2012) Shame and guilt: do they really differ in their focus of evaluation? wanting to change the self and behavior in response to ingroup immorality. J Soc Psychol 152:547–567CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gausel N, Leach CW (2011) Concern for self-image and social-image in the management of moral failure: rethinking shame. Eur J Soc Psychol 41:468–478CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gausel N, Leach CW, Vignoles VL, Brown R (2012) Defend or repair? explaining responses to in-group moral failure by disentangling feelings of shame, rejection, and inferiority. J Pers Soc Psychol 102:941–960CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Giner-Sorolla R (2013) Judging passions: Moral emotions in persons and groups. Psychology Press, HoveGoogle Scholar
  24. Gosling E, Williams KJ (2010) Connectedness to nature, place attachment and conservation behaviour: testing connectedness theory among farmers. J Environ Psychol 30:298–304CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Harrison PR, Mallett RK (2013) Mortality salience motivates the defense of environmental values and increases collective ecoguilt. Ecopsychology 5:36–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Harth NS, Kessler T, Leach CW (2008) Advantaged group’s emotional reactions to intergroup inequality: the dynamics of pride, guilt, and sympathy. Personal Soc Psychol Bull 34:115–129CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Harth NS, Leach CW, Kessler T (2013) Are we responsible? guilt, anger, and pride about environmental damage and protection. J Environ Psychol 34:18–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hayes AF (2013) Introduction to mediation, moderation, and conditional process analysis: A regression-based approach. Guilford Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  29. Heath Y, Gifford R (2002) Extending the theory of planned behavior: predicting the use of public transportation. J Appl Soc Psychol 32:2154–2189CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Iyer A, Leach CW (2008) Emotion in inter-group relations. Eur Rev Soc Psychol 19:86–125CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Iyer A, Schmader T, Lickel B (2007) Why individuals protest the perceived transgressions of their country: the role of anger, shame and guilt. Personal Soc Psychol Bull 33:572–587CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Johns M, Schmader T, Lickel B (2005) Ashamed to be an American? the role of identification in predicting vicarious shame for anti-arab prejudice after 9–11. Self Identity 4:331–348CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kaiser FG (2006) A moral extension of the theory of planned behavior: norms and anticipated feelings of regret in conservationism. Pers Individ Differ 41:71–81CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kaiser FG, Gutscher H (2003) The proposition of a general version of the theory of planned behavior: predicting ecological behavior. J Appl Soc Psychol 33:586–603CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lavergne KJ, Sharp EC, Pelletier LG, Holtby A (2010) The role of perceived government style in the facilitation of self-determined and non self-determined motivation for pro-environmental behavior. J Environ Psychol 30:169–177CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lewis HB (1971) Shame and guilt in neurosis. International Universities Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  37. MacKinnon DP, Fairchild AJ, Fritz MS (2007) Mediation analysis. Annu Rev Psychol 58:593–614CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Mallett RK (2012) Eco-guilt motivates eco-friendly behavior. Ecopsychology 4:223–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Mallett RK, Melchiori KJ, Strickroth T (2013) Self-confrontation via a carbon footprint calculator increases guilt and support for a proenvironmental group. Ecopsychology 5:9–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Mayer FS, Frantz CM (2004) The connectedness to nature scale: a measure of individuals’ feeling in community with nature. J Environ Psychol 24:503–515CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Möser G, Bamberg S (2008) The effectiveness of soft transport policy measures: a critical assessment and meta-analysis of empirical evidence. J Environ Psychol 28:10–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Onwezen MC, Antonides G, Bartels J (2013) The norm activation model: an exploration of the functions of anticipated pride and guilt in pro-environmental behaviour. J Econ Psychol 39:141–153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Preacher KJ, Rucker DD, Hayes AF (2007) Addressing moderated mediation hypotheses: theory, methods, and prescriptions. Multivar Behav Res 42:185–227CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Rees JH, Bamberg S (2014) Climate protection needs societal change: determinants of intention to participate in collective climate action. Eur J Soc Psychol 44:466–473CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Rees JH, Allpress JA, Brown R (2013) Nie wieder: group-based emotions for in-group wrongdoing affect attitudes toward unrelated minorities. Polit Psychol 34:387–407CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Ryan RM, Deci EL (2000) Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. Am Psychol 55:68–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. 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
  48. Smith ER (1993) Social identity and social emotions: Toward new conceptualizations of prejudice. In: Mackie DM, Hamilton DL (eds) Affect, cognition, and stereotyping: Interactive processes in group perception. Academic, San Diego, pp 297–315CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Smith ER, Seger CR, Mackie DM (2007) Can emotions be truly group level? evidence regarding four conceptual criteria. J Pers Soc Psychol 93:431–446CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Sustrans – The Sustainable Transport Charity (2009) Travelsmart Project Review. Sustrans, BristolGoogle Scholar
  51. Tam K-P, Lee S-L, Chao MM (2013) Saving Mr. Nature: anthropomorphism enhances connectedness to and protectiveness toward nature. J Exp Soc Psychol 49:514–521CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Tangney JP, Dearing RL (2002) Shame and guilt. The Guilford Press, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Tangney JP, Miller RS, Flicker L, Barlow DH (1996) Are shame, guilt, and embarassment distinct emotions? J Pers Soc Psychol 70:1256–1269CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Täuber S, Van Zomeren M (2013) Outrage towards whom? threats to moral group status impede striving to improve via out-group-directed outrage. Eur J Soc Psychol 43:149–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. 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

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonas H. Rees
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Sabine Klug
    • 1
  • Sebastian Bamberg
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyBielefeld UniversityBielefeldGermany
  2. 2.Department of Social SciencesBielefeld University of Applied SciencesBielefeldGermany

Personalised recommendations