Promoting pro-environmental behavior faces multiple challenges. Promoting new pro-environmental behaviors is even more challenging, due to additional barriers, such as perceived lack of information. Traditional pro-environmental communication often either encourages desired behaviors or discourages undesired behaviors. We argue that separately, these two approaches are limited in their ability to elicit perceptions of informativeness and therefore they may not be effective enough in the context of new pro-environmental behaviors, because of the profound need in educating the public about these new behaviors. Addressing this challenge, we test across six studies the effectiveness of a communication approach based on education psychology (specifically the “behavior reorientation” approach), which combines the encouraging and the discouraging language in a single integrated message. In three large field experiments and a field survey we find that, compared with communication that uses separately an encouraging or a discouraging message, a combined message that integrates both approaches elicits higher engagement with new pro-environmental behaviors. Three follow-up online studies demonstrate that the effect of the combined message occurs only in the context of new (rather than established) pro-environmental behaviors, and show the mediating role of perceived informativeness, echoing the need for education in such contexts.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Ltd
- Environmental communication
- Field experiment
- New pro-environmental behavior