Publications (FIS)

Other-regarding preferences and pro-environmental behaviour

An interdisciplinary review of experimental studies

authored by
Nicolai Heinz, Ann Kathrin Koessler

Pro-environmental behaviour (PEB) is often promoted by reinforcing or highlighting own benefits. However, considering that actors also care about the outcomes for others (i.e. they hold other-regarding preferences), PEB may also be encouraged by addressing these other-regarding preferences. In this paper, we review the results from social science experiments where interventions addressing other-regarding preferences were used to promote PEB. Based on our synthesis, we conclude that addressing other-regarding preferences can be effective in promoting (various types of) PEB in some, but not in all instances. Whether an intervention was effective depended inter alia on the pre-established preferences, cost structures and the perceived cooperation of others. Effective interventions included the provision of information on behavioural consequences, perspective-taking, direct appeals, framing and re-categorization. The interventions worked by activating other-regarding preferences, raising awareness about adverse consequences, evoking empathic concern and expanding the moral circle. We propose to take these findings as an impulse to examine policy instruments and institutions in terms of whether they activate and strengthen other-regarding preferences, thereby enabling collective engagement in PEB.

External Organisation(s)
Osnabrück University
Helmholtz Zentrum München - German Research Center for Environmental Health
London School of Economics and Political Science
Ecological economics
Publication date
Publication status
Peer reviewed
ASJC Scopus subject areas
Environmental Science(all), Economics and Econometrics
Electronic version(s) (Access: Open) (Access: Open)