Abetting or Thwarting: The Mediating Role of Subjective Enablers and Constraints in the Pro-Environmental Attitude-Behavior Relationship: An Abstract
The daily consumption decisions made by billions of people exert a huge toll on the environment. Addressing environmental degradation requires shifting consumer behavior, and researchers have applied theories to grasp the nature and likelihood of enacting pro-environmental behaviors (PEBs). Behavioral volition and ascription of responsibility are two pillars supporting environmental locus-of-control (ELOC)—ones’ perceptions regarding personal (internal) and external capabilities and accountabilities with regard to bringing about pro-environmental outcomes. Consumers recognizing and accepting this personal responsibility, and empowering themselves to act in kind, are high on internal ELOC (i.e., INELOC). Studies show that INELOC levels substantially predict consumers’ propensity to enact a broad swath of PEBs. What is missing is comprehending the mechanisms bridging the gap between INELOC and PEBs. Knowledge about pro-environmental initiatives is necessary but insufficient. General constructs like environmental attitudes tend to be poor predictors of concrete behaviors, since they are conceived at different levels of abstraction. Studies scrutinizing how consumer attitudes, perceptions of situational factors, and behavioral outcomes function in a sequence are lacking.
With this research, we seek to demonstrate how subjective enabling and constraining conditions, respectively, positively and negatively mediate the effects of INELOC on PEBs. Given the absence of scales for the mediating constructs, we took a deductive approach to develop relevant items. Over two studies, we examine the validity of our psychographic constructs and their hypothesized relationships. Confirmatory factor analyses verified construct dimensionality, and Hayes’ PROCESS macro tested hypotheses. INELOC levels progressively associate with greater likelihood and frequency of PEBs. Consumers with higher levels of INELOC are more (less) apt to perceive enabling (constraining) factors. Following the hierarchy-of-effects model, the dispositional effects on behavior are partially mediated by situational enablers/constraints: the relationships between abstract attitudes and specific behavioral outcomes are positively enhanced (dampened) by perceptions of situational enablers (constraints). This yields a better understanding of not only why consumers are ecologically responsible but also how their pro-environmental dispositions are abetted or thwarted by situational enablers and constraints, respectively. The challenge is not merely about changing attitudes but also (re)engineering the context to enhance the salience of enablers and minimize the implied presence of hindrances. We must first recognize the presence of such constraints that frustrate consumers from behaving in a pro-environmental manner and implement programs that will shrink the gap between ecological convictions and actions.
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