Pro-environmental behavior: On the interplay of intrinsic motivations and external conditions

Authors: Mariateresa Silvi*, Autonomous University Barcelona, Emilio Padilla Rosa, Autonomous University Barcelona
Topics: Sustainability Science, Social Theory, Quantitative Methods
Keywords: pro enviromental behavior, energy consumption, enviromental policy, monetary incentives, intrinsic motivation
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 2:40 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Bacchus, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


A key issue for ecological economics concerns the processes whereby people engage in ecologically responsible behavior and contribute to environmental quality even when they involve a personal cost for a shared benefit.
This paper explores the relative impact of intrinsic motivation versus external conditions and economic incentives on eight pro-environmental behaviors (PEBs). Previous research has mostly focused on one of these aspects or studied whether external incentives can crowd out moral motivation. More comprehensive accounts of the interplay of these factors are rare and mostly report small-scale experiments.
Using a data set measuring PEBs and environmental attitudes in the European Union’s 28 member states, this paper tests both sets of variables on a wider scale. It assesses the importance of intrinsic motivation as a dominant factor and shows how differing levels of intrinsic motivation influence the effectiveness of external conditions, such as monetary incentives and green infrastructures. External incentives are found to interact positively with intrinsic motivation. The findings also suggest that the influence of external factors varies depending on whether the behavior examined is cost neutral or implies costs or rewards.
We further show that pressing economic preoccupations can distract individuals from behaving pro- environmentally, and PEBs are more likely to arise in individuals who care about the future.
The results suggest that two-pronged policies, which take into account intrinsic motivation and external conditions, are needed to reach a high observance rate in the population in the short and in the long term. We discuss the significance for policy.

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