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Testing the Importance of Individuals' Motives for Explaining Environmentally Significant Behavior

Journal article
Authors Sverker C. Jagers
Stefan Linde
Johan Martinsson
Simon Matti
Published in Social Science Quarterly
Volume 98
Issue 2
Pages 644-658
ISSN 0038-4941
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Political Science
Pages 644-658
Language en
Subject categories Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)


© 2016 Southwestern Social Science Association.Objective: This article explores how different motives affect behavior, and attempts to explain how the causal chain of values and beliefs forms our understanding of and motives for private-sphere environmentally significant behaviors (ESBs). As a point of departure, we postulate that traditional models focusing primarily on individual-level motivation as a driver for ESB should benefit significantly from making a distinction in the dependent variable between: (1) behaviors that are explicitly pro-environmental, judging both by their outcomes and the individual's stated motives for undertaking them; (2) behaviors that have a positive environmental impact but that are connected to motives other than environmental ones; as well as (3) behaviors where both environmental and other motives coincide as drivers for ESB. Methods: In order to answer our research questions, we use survey data collected from a random sample from the Swedish population register. The main dependent variable is the self-reported frequency of 12 different kinds of nonactivist, private-sphere behaviors. We employ ordinary least square regressions to analyze the explanatory strength of individual-level motivational factors for ESB when taking stated motives for behavior into account. Results and Conclusion: The results support our main assumption that to explain drivers for ESB, stated motives should be taken into account. For all of the 12 ESBs in the survey, a considerable share of the respondents do not perceive or motivate behavior as pro-environmentalism at all, and others provide multiple motives for their behavior, combining, for example, economic or health with environmentalism. Furthermore, when analyzing the relationship between a scientifically well-established model aspiring to explain pro-environmental behavior, and individuals' behavioral perceptions and their stated behavior, we find that the explanatory power of this model is clearly sensitive to people's stated motives.

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