Past Actions as Self-Signals: How Acting in a Self-Interested Way Influences Environmental Decision Making.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

In the last few decades, awareness of environmental issues has increased significantly. Little has changed, however, in human activities contributing to environmental damage. Why is it so difficult for us to change our behavior in a domain that is clearly so important to the future of humanity? Here we propose and test the possibility that self-signaling, the way we view ourselves based on our past behaviors, is one of the factors contributing to the difficulty of taking environmental action. In three experiments, we show that previous self-interested thoughts or behaviors serve as important signals that hinder the likelihood of acting in line with an individual's reported concern for the environment. This study not only helps explain the gap between environmental awareness and action, but also suggests alternative strategies for policymakers and environmental agencies to promote proenvironmental behavior.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Lee, C-Y; Hochman, G; Prince, SE; Ariely, D

Published Date

  • January 2016

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 11 / 7

Start / End Page

  • e0158456 -

PubMed ID

  • 27447822

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC4957805

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1932-6203

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1932-6203

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1371/journal.pone.0158456


  • eng