Communication policies employed by policymakers and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) often appeal to the emotions to persuade people to adopt virtuous behavior. The aim of this paper is to study the impact of induced emotions on pro-environmental behavior (PEB). We design a three-stage laboratory experiment. In the first stage, we determine the level of the subjects’ environmental awareness. In the second stage, subjects read scripts that place them in realistic hypothetical scenarios designed to induce specific emotions. We implement a 2 x 2 in-between design by varying both the valence and social dimension of the four emotional states induced: happiness, sadness, pride and shame. In the third stage, subjects play a modified dictator game in which the recipient is an environmental non-governmental organization (ENGO). We show that the emotional states of subjects can influence PEB. In particular, negative emotions significantly reduce the average individual amount of donations made to ENGOs. We also find that the precise impact of the emotional states is more complex and appears to be dependent on individuals’ characteristics and awareness for environmental issues. For instance, in positive emotional states, men donate significantly less than women. In addition, a high level of environmental awareness increases donations in subjects experiencing shame and decreases their likelihood to donate when feeling pride. Also, we observe behavioral consistency for negative emotions and rather compensatory behavior for positive emotions.
The effects of induced emotions on environmental preferences and behavior: an experimental study
23 September 2021