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Do economic preferences predict pro-environmental behaviour?

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Till Weber



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Understanding the determinants of pro-environmental behaviour is key to addressing many environmental challenges. Economic theory and empirical evidence suggest that human behaviour is partly determined by people's economic preferences which therefore should predict individual differences in pro-environmental behaviour. In a pre-registered study, we elicit seven preference measures (risk taking, patience, present bias, altruism, positive reciprocity, negative reciprocity, and trust) and test whether they predict pro-environmental behaviour in everyday life measured using the day reconstruction method. We find that only altruism is significantly associated with everyday pro-environmental behaviour. This suggests that pro-social aspects of everyday pro-environmental behaviour are more salient to people than the riskiness and intertemporal structure of these behaviours. We also show in an exploratory analysis that different clusters of everyday pro-environmental behaviours are predicted by patience, positive reciprocity, and altruism, indicating that these considerations are relevant for some, but not other, pro-environmental behaviours.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Lades LK, Laffan K, Weber TO

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Ecological Economics

Year: 2021

Volume: 183

Print publication date: 01/05/2021

Online publication date: 13/02/2021

Acceptance date: 25/01/2021

Date deposited: 15/02/2021

ISSN (electronic): 0921-8009

Publisher: Elsevier


DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2021.106977


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