Emotions can be important triggers of a variety of behaviors, including pro-environmental behavior. However, relationships between affect and pro-environmental behavior are so far not well understood, and a very limited amount of previous research has examined the dynamic relationship between affect and pro-environmental behavior in people’s daily lives. Such research is necessary as it has the potential to contribute to theories of pro-environmental behavior by showing that daily affect matters for pro-environmental behavior. It also can inform practice by showing how pro-environmental behavior may be more successfully encouraged. The overarching aim of this thesis is to examine links between everyday affective experiences and pro-environmental behavior. The three main Research Questions are: How do daily affective experiences relate to daily pro-environmental behavior? Are different types of daily affective experiences related to different types of daily pro-environmental behaviors? Do daily affective experiences interact with more stable characteristics of the individual (i.e., pro-environmental attitude) and perceived context (i.e., social norms) in relation to pro-environmental behavior?
Chapter 2 reviews traditional approaches to understanding pro-environmental behavior and introduces a novel multilevel perspective on pro-environmental behavior with a focus on temporally stable and fluctuating aspects of, and factors relating to, pro-environmental behavior. This chapter presents a range of topics that could be researched by applying such a perspective, with relationships between affect and pro-environmental behavior included as one potential topic. It is argued that people’s pro-environmental behavior and affective experiences vary from day to day and, thus, should be conceptualized and operationalized accordingly. Chapter 2 advocates the use of daily diary and experience sampling methodologies in order to capture the dynamic relationship between affect and pro-environmental behavior as it occurs in people’s everyday lives.
Chapter 3 applies the multilevel perspective introduced in Chapter 2 to investigate the relationship between daily affect and pro-environmental behavior in the work place. Specifically, Chapter 3 examines daily activated positive affect (i.e., feeling enthusiastic and excited) and unactivated positive affect (i.e., feeling calm and relaxed) in relation to daily task-related pro-environmental behavior (i.e., the extent to which employees complete required work tasks in environmentally-friendly ways) and daily proactive pro-environmental behavior (i.e., the extent to which employees show personal initiative when acting in environmentally-friendly ways at work). Pro-environmental attitude is examined as a moderator of these relationships. Using a daily diary study design (N = 56; 910 daily entries), this study demonstrates that daily unactivated positive affect and pro-environmental attitude positively predict daily task-related pro-environmental behavior. It also shows that daily activated positive affect positively predicts daily proactive pro-environmental behavior among employees with a less positive pro-environmental attitude, but not among employees with a more positive pro-environmental attitude. This study is the first to examine the relationships between affect and pro-environmental behavior in everyday life.
Chapter 4 builds upon the previous chapter by extending the generalizability of the previous study’s findings to outside of the work place. A daily diary study is used to examine the role of a different between-person moderator, perceived social norms, on the relationships between daily affective experiences and pro-environmental behavior (N = 94; 1,148 daily entries). This chapter shows that unactivated positive affect and pro-environmental social norms are positively related to basic pro-environmental behavior (i.e., pro-environmental behavior that is carried out more easily and may be a matter of habit; similar to task-related pro-environmental behavior), and activated positive affect is positively related to proactive pro-environmental behavior. In addition, pro-environmental social norms are shown to moderate the relationship between unactivated positive affect and basic pro-environmental behavior, such that this relationship is stronger when pro-environmental social norms are less positive.
Chapter 5 uses an experience sampling study (N = 96; 1,152 daily entries) to examine the relationships between two specific emotions, pride and guilt about environmental behavior (as opposed to more diffuse feelings of positive affect felt during the day as in the previous two chapters), and pro-environmental behavior. As in Chapter 4, pro-environmental social norms are examined as a moderator. This chapter shows that, within a short time period, engagement in pro-environmental behavior is positively related to pride and negatively related to guilt. It also shows that pride about environmental behavior is positively related to subsequent engagement in pro-environmental behavior (i.e., pro-environmental behavior measured during the following short time period), but only for people who perceive more positive pro-environmental descriptive norms.
This thesis provides the first evidence that different types of daily affective experiences are related to different types of daily pro-environmental behavior, and that daily affective experiences interact with more stable characteristics of the individual (i.e., pro-environmental attitude) and perceptions of the context (i.e., social norms) in relation to pro-environmental behavior. Implications for future research on the complex associations between daily affective experiences and pro-environmental behavior are discussed. Overall, this thesis demonstrates that pro-environmental behavior theory and research should consider the everyday, dynamic links between affect and pro-environmental behavior.