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How will I be remembered? Conserving the Environment for Legacy’s Sake (Study Materials)

Zaval, Lisa; Markowitz, Ezra; Weber, Elke U.

Long time horizons and social distance are often viewed as key barriers to pro-environmental action due to intertemporal and interpersonal discounting, particularly in the case of climate change. We suggest that these challenges can be turned into opportunities by making salient relevant long-term goals and motives, thus shifting preferences for present-future and self-other trade-offs at the point of decision-making. Here we test whether individuals’ latent motivation to leave a positive legacy can be leveraged to increase engagement with climate change and other long-term environmental problems. In an initial study, we find that individual differences in legacy motivation are positively associated with pro-environmental behaviors and intentions. In an experiment, we demonstrate that priming legacy motives prior to providing an opportunity to donate to an environmental charity increases donations, as well as self-reported pro-environmental intentions and beliefs. Using a new short-form scale designed to measure legacy motives, we confirm that changes in environmental behavior and belief induced by the legacy prime are mediated by increased concern for one’s future legacy. This work provides the first experimental evidence that domain-general legacy motives can be exploited to support intergenerational environmental stewardship, and represents a previously under-studied and powerful strategy for increasing pro-environmental behavior.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Psychology
Published Here
October 28, 2014

Notes

This zip file includes the surveys for the pilot study and experiment published in: Zaval, L., Markowitz, E., Weber, E. U. (2015) “How will I be remembered? Conserving the Environment for Legacy’s Sake,” Psychological Science, http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0956797614561266. Data files from the pilot study and experiment are available in Academic Commons at http://dx.doi.org/10.7916/D8SQ8Z1G

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