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Spillover effects in environmental behaviors, across time and context: a review and research agenda

Journal article
Authors Andreas Nilsson
Magnus Bergquist
P. Wesley Schultz
Published in Environmental Education Research
Volume 23
Issue 4
Pages 573-589
ISSN 1350-4622
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Psychology
Pages 573-589
Language en
Keywords Environmental behaviors, spillover, rebound, moral-licensing
Subject categories Environmental psychology, Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)


When implementing environmental education and interventions to promote one pro-environmental behavior, it is seldom asked if and how non-target pro-environmental behaviors are affected. The spillover effect proposes that engaging in one behavior affects the probability of engagement or disengaging in a second behavior. Therefore, the positive spillover effect predicts that interventions targeting one specific behavioral have the capacity to promote non-targeted and/or future pro-environmental behaviors. However, the negative spillover effect predicts that engaging in a first pro-environmental behavior will prevent or decrease a second pro-environmental behavior. Since the theoretical and empirical basis for positive and negative spillover effects are not sufficiently understood, the present paper (1) suggests a distinction between behavioral, temporal, and contextual spillovers (2) reviews the existing spillover research literature across a variety of environmental domains, (3) presents potential moderators governing the direction of spillover effects, and finally (4) discuss techniques to promote pro-environmental spillovers.

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