Testing the Importance of Individuals’ Motives for Explaining Environmentally Significant Behavior

Document identifier: oai:DiVA.org:ltu-7611
Access full text here:10.1111/ssqu.12321
Keyword: Social Sciences, Political Science, Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalisation Studies), Samhällsvetenskap, Statsvetenskap, Statsvetenskap (exklusive studier av offentlig förvaltning och globaliseringsstudier)
Publication year: 2017
Relevant Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):
SDG 3 Good health and wellbeing
The SDG label(s) above have been assigned by OSDG.ai


ObjectiveThis article explores how different motives affect behavior, and attempts to explain how the causal chain of values and beliefs forms our understanding of and motives for private-sphere environmentally significant behaviors (ESBs). As a point of departure, we postulate that traditional models focusing primarily on individual-level motivation as a driver for ESB should benefit significantly from making a distinction in the dependent variable between: (1) behaviors that are explicitly pro-environmental, judging both by their outcomes and the individual's stated motives for undertaking them; (2) behaviors that have a positive environmental impact but that are connected to motives other than environmental ones; as well as (3) behaviors where both environmental and other motives coincide as drivers for ESB.MethodsIn order to answer our research questions, we use survey data collected from a random sample from the Swedish population register. The main dependent variable is the self-reported frequency of 12 different kinds of nonactivist, private-sphere behaviors. We employ ordinary least square regressions to analyze the explanatory strength of individual-level motivational factors for ESB when taking stated motives for behavior into account.Results and ConclusionThe results support our main assumption that to explain drivers for ESB, stated motives should be taken into account. For all of the 12 ESBs in the survey, a considerable share of the respondents do not perceive or motivate behavior as pro-environmentalism at all, and others provide multiple motives for their behavior, combining, for example, economic or health with environmentalism. Furthermore, when analyzing the relationship between a scientifically well-established model aspiring to explain pro-environmental behavior, and individuals’ behavioral perceptions and their stated behavior, we find that the explanatory power of this model is clearly sensitive to people's stated motives.


Sverker Jagers

Luleå tekniska universitet; Samhällsvetenskap
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Stefan Linde

Luleå tekniska universitet; Samhällsvetenskap
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Johan Martinsson

Department of Political Science, University of Gothenburg, Statsvetenskapliga Institutionen, Göteborgs universitet
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Simon Matti

Luleå tekniska universitet; Samhällsvetenskap
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