Pride and guilt make consumers more environmentally friendly

My research shows with several large-scale surveys and experiments that people not only feel proud or guilty immediately after an environmentally friendly or unfriendly act, but that these emotions also affect future environmentally friendly choices. Pride and guilt make consumers more environmentally friendly.

Promovendus dr. MC (Marleen) Onwezen
Promotor prof.dr. G (Gerrit) Antonides
Organisatie Wageningen University, Urban Economics, Wageningen Economic Research

vr 2 mei 2014 16:00 tot 17:30

Locatie Auditorium, building number 362
Generaal Foulkesweg 1
6703 BG Wageningen

People are generally quite positive about the environment. However, at the moment of decision making various motives play a role (e.g.,  price, convenience, and taste). In my dissertation, I show that emotions of pride and guilt can regulate consumer behaviour to fit with personal pro-environmental standards and the standards of one’s social environment (e.g., family and friends). Both pride and guilt thus guide environmentally friendly consumer choices, because consumers like to feel good about themselves (self-regulatory function).

Guilt more social than pride

This self-regulatory function is not the same for pride and guilt. Individuals feel more guilty because others, such as family and friends disapprove of their behaviour. While individuals feel proud because their behaviour matches with what they value themselves, and less by the judgements of their social environment. Guilt is a more social emotion than pride.

The way a person sees himself (e.g., "I am unique" versus "I am part of my family”) is determined by culture and situation. I show that this ‘self-construal’ influences how emotions are formed and how they affect environmentally friendly intentions. For example, a person feels more pride due to what they personally think is important in individualistic (compared to collectivistic) cultures and if they receive information via email instead of social media. The function of emotions can therefore be enhanced by taking differences between cultures or situational cues such as information channel into account.