• Environmental concern;
  • environmental attitudes;
  • new environmental paradigm (NEP);
  • values;
  • attitude structure;
  • recycling


Empirical studies on environmental behavior have been using a multitude of different operationalizations of environmental concern, which complicates cumulative research. In this article, we empirically explore the dimensionality of four environmental scales of different specificity, their interrelatedness, and their partial contribution to the explanation of recycling behavior. To facilitate the comparison of different studies, we integrate the scales into a hierarchical model.


In a German mail survey (n = 1,330), we queried participation in household waste recycling, Inglehart's postmaterialism scale, the new environmental paradigm scale, and a general and specific attitude scale. Using traditional path analysis and latent structural equation modeling, we test the hierarchical structure of environmental values, beliefs, and attitudes and their contribution to explaining recycling behavior.


We find direct effects of specific attitudes on behavior, but no direct effects of higher-level cognitions. Rather, values and primitive beliefs influence general attitudes, which in turn determine specific attitudes. The empirical analyses confirm the proposed hierarchical structure.


Our research reaffirms Ajzen and Fishbein's postulate of correspondence. Comparison of different studies is only meaningful when the hierarchical position of the respective scales is taken into account properly. To facilitate cumulative research, we propose to use standardized general scales such as the NEP in addition to more specific operationalizations.