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Normative, Gain and Hedonic Goal Frames Guiding Environmental Behavior


*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Siegwart Lindenberg, Department of Sociology, University of Groningen, Grote Rozenstraat 31, 9712 TG Groningen, The Netherlands [e-mail:].


This article discusses new developments about goal-dependent framing and multiple goal frames (sometimes also called “multiple motives”), which are highly relevant for understanding environmental behavior. We introduce goal-framing theory, which postulates that goals “frame” the way people process information and act upon it. Three goal frames are distinguished: a hedonic, gain, and normative goal frame. In general, multiple goals are active at any given time, which may (or may not) be compatible; that is, the strength of the focal goal may be influenced by other goals that are in the background. Based on an extensive review of studies in environmental psychology, we suggest those conditions under which each goal frame may be dominant in influencing environmental behavior. In the environmental context, normative goal frames imply acting pro-environmentally, while gain and hedonic goal frames often result in not acting in an environmentally sound manner. Next, we argue that pro-environmental behavior may be promoted by strengthening normative goals or by making gain and hedonic goals less incompatible with normative goals. Finally, based on goal-framing theory, we suggest questions to be addressed in future research.