Pro-environmental actions, climate change, and defensiveness: Do self-affirmations make a difference to people's motives and beliefs about making a difference?


Correspondence should be addressed to Dr Paul Sparks, Department of Psychology, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton BN1 9QH, UK (e-mail:


Social concerns with the imperative of environmentally sustainable life-styles sit rather awkwardly with ideas about the widespread denial of global environmental problems. Given the very obvious threat and denial dimensions to these issues, we conducted two studies assessing the impact of self-affirmation manipulations on people's beliefs and motives regarding pro-environmental actions. In Study 1, participants (N =125) completed a self-affirmation task and read information on the threat of climate change. Results showed that the self-affirmation manipulation resulted in lower levels of denial and greater perceptions of personal involvement in relation to climate change. In Study 2, participants (N =90) completed a self-affirmation task and read some information on recycling. Findings showed a beneficial effect of a self-affirmation manipulation on intentions to increase recycling behaviour (among lower recyclers). The results are discussed in relation to the potential benefits of self-affirmation manipulations for promoting pro-environmental actions.