Affect as a Model of Pro-Environmental Spillover
Vasan, Ana A.
In an effort to mitigate the potentially catastrophic effects of human consumption on the environment, many researchers are driven to understand the mechanisms underlying sustained engagement in pro-environmental behavior (PEB). Using the concept of behavioral spillover, a primary PEB may either lead to an increase (positive spillover) or a decrease (negative spillover) in future PEBs. Previous research into PEB spillover suggests that situational factors, such as identity and emotion, may affect whether an individual tends toward positive spillover behavior or negative spillover behavior. The present study synthesizes research on behavioral spillover with that of emotional appraisal to attempt to create a framework for the affective mechanisms underlying the spillover effect, within the domain of PEB. Specifically, this study looks at the participants’ decision to complete a second PEB after completing an initial PEB, and how that decision may be differentially affected by induced elevation, pride, guilt, and anger. Participants were led to engage in a primary PEB (recycling a plastic water bottle), subsequently underwent a targeted emotion induction, and finally were given the opportunity to engage in a second PEB (turning off a dripping water faucet), with the latter recorded on a binary scale. Results were non-significant, and indicate a potential difference between the Elevation and Guilt conditions’ and the Pride and Anger conditions’ influence on sustained engagement in PEB, especially as guilt may predict sustained PEB engagement. Results further suggest the possibility that individual identity and values may not predict direction of spillover behavior. Our research provides a preliminary framework from which future social psychologists and policy makers may create widespread and sustainable initiatives towards PEB.