The Awareness of Consequences Scale: An Exploration, Empirical Analysis, and Reinterpretation


  • Anthony M. Ryan,

    1. Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
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  • Clive L. Spash

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of International Environment and Development Studies (Noragric), Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Ås, Norway
    • Department of Socio-Economics, WU Vienna University of Economics and Business, Vienna, Austria
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  • Study 1 was sponsored by the European Commission DG XII under the project on “Social Processes of Environmental Valuation,” coordinated by Martin O'Connor, EC Contract ENV4-CT96-0226. The final report can be found at Study 2 was part of the European Community project “Integrated Evaluation for Sustainable River Basin Governance” (ADVISOR), coordinated by Paula Antunes, EC Contract EVK1-CT-2000-00074 under the Framework V, Energy, Environment, and Sustainable Development RTD Programme.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Clive L. Spash, Department of Socio-Economics, WU Vienna University of Economics and Business, Nordbergstr. 15/3/D-UZA 4, 1090 Vienna, Austria. E-mail:


The value–belief–norm model assumes that egoistic, social-altruistic, and biospheric value orientations causally influence how people cognitively structure beliefs regarding adverse environmental consequences. Empirical studies have administered the Awareness of Consequences (AC) scale to differentiate between these 3 orientations. We report an analysis that challenges previous work in the field. Evidence is presented that indicates the AC scale should be reinterpreted as a measure of beliefs supporting environmental action and beliefs supporting environmental inaction. The beliefs supporting environmental action appear to be differentiable according to beliefs in the positive consequences from environmental protection and the seriousness of environment harm. This has major implications for the value–belief–norm model and its application.