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Other-regarding preferences and pro-environmental behaviour: an interdisciplinary review of experimental studies

Heinz, Nicolai and Koessler, Ann Kathrin (2021) Other-regarding preferences and pro-environmental behaviour: an interdisciplinary review of experimental studies. Ecological Economics, 184. ISSN 0921-8009

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Identification Number: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2021.106987


Pro-environmental behaviour (PEB) is often promoted by reinforcing or highlighting own benefits. However, considering that actors also care about the outcomes for others (i.e. they hold other-regarding preferences), PEB may also be encouraged by addressing these other-regarding preferences. In this paper, we review the results from social science experiments where interventions addressing other-regarding preferences were used to promote PEB. Based on our synthesis, we conclude that addressing other-regarding preferences can be effective in promoting (various types of) PEB in some, but not in all instances. Whether an intervention was effective depended inter alia on the pre-established preferences, cost structures and the perceived cooperation of others. Effective interventions included the provision of information on behavioural consequences, perspective-taking, direct appeals, framing and re-categorization. The interventions worked by activating other-regarding preferences, raising awareness about adverse consequences, evoking empathic concern and expanding the moral circle. We propose to take these findings as an impulse to examine policy instruments and institutions in terms of whether they activate and strengthen other-regarding preferences, thereby enabling collective engagement in PEB.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2021 The Authors
Divisions: Geography & Environment
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
JEL classification: D - Microeconomics > D9 - Intertemporal Choice and Growth > D90 - General
Q - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics > Q5 - Environmental Economics > Q56 - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounting; Environmental Equity
Y - Miscellaneous Categories > Y8 - Related Disciplines > Y80 - Related Disciplines
Date Deposited: 17 Dec 2021 15:30
Last Modified: 28 Mar 2024 04:15

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