Affirming belief in scientific progress reduces environmentally friendly behaviour

Authors

  • Marijn H. C. Meijers,

    Corresponding author
    1. Amsterdam School of Communication Research, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    • Correspondence to: Marijn Meijers, Amsterdam School of Communication Research, University of Amsterdam, Kloveniersburgwal 48, 1012 CX Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

      E-mail: M.H.C.Meijers@uva.nl

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  • Bastiaan T. Rutjens

    1. Social Psychology Program, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
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  • The authors contributed equally to this work.

Abstract

Many people are reluctant to behave in environmentally friendly ways. One possible explanation might be that the motivation to behave in environmentally friendly ways is undermined by the way scientific progress is overstated in the popular media. Four experiments show that portraying science as rapidly progressing—and thus enabling society to control problems related to the natural environment and human health in the not-too-distant future—is detrimental to environmentally friendly behaviour because such a frame affirms perceptions of an orderly (vs chaotic) world. This in turn negatively affects the likelihood of engaging in environmentally friendly behaviour. Simultaneously, communication that questions (vs affirms) scientific progress leads to lower perceptions of order and consequential increases in environmentally friendly behaviour. These findings show that when the aim is to promote environmentally friendly attitudes and behaviour, it helps to not overstate scientific progress. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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