Climate change, Pro-environmental attitudes

Document Type

Research Paper


As stated in the fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the planet’s climate is warming at an unprecedented rate, and humans are responsible for the large majority of causes creating this situation. If humans are to repair the balance between themselves and nature, then a global environmental movement that includes widespread behavior and attitude reconstruction will have to occur. The current study seeks to build upon past research attempting to promote pro-environmental behavior change in individuals. The author examines the ability of modeling and norms presented in a video format to motivate individuals to change their behavior to become more environmentally sustainable.

Research shows that normative information can promote behaviors that are either harmful or beneficial to the environment (Cialdini, 2003; Stern, 2000; Stern et al, 1999). For purposes of this study, a norm is defined as any behavior perceived to be typical or normal by the participants. This study examines the influence of injunctive and descriptive norms on environmental attitudes and commitment to engage in proenvironmental behaviors. An injunctive norm is defined as a request to act in a pro-social manner. Injunctive norms usually target behaviors that are desired but not typical, such as asking someone to give up all use of their automobile. A descriptive norm on the other hand describes the desired behavior as typical and expected.

Based on previous research, we created two videos that presented descriptive information to create one of two norms: actions taken to protect the environment such as driving efficient vehicles, using less electricity, and recycling, or actions taken that harm the environment such as driving inefficient vehicles, using more electricity, not recycling, etc. (Cialdini, 2003; Bator & Cialdini, 2000). Both videos also presented injunctive norm information asking participants to engage in pro-environmental behaviors. The first video asks participants to behave in a way that is consistent with the descriptive norm. This will be called the combined norm condition. The second video asks participants to oppose the described norm because the norm in this condition is undesirable. This will be called the contrasting norm condition. The author hypothesized that the combined norm video would promote more positive reactions and an increased willingness to commit to pro-environmental behaviors than would the contrasting norm video. The author also hypothesized that the contrasting norm condition would be ineffective, reasoning that people rarely act against the norm, even if the norm is presented as negative or undesirable (Cialdini, 2003; Bator & Cialdini, 2000; Gardner & Stern, 2002).



Subjects - Topical (LCSH)

Environmental psychology; Climatic changes; Attitude (Psychology)


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