Magnitude of the gap between environmental awareness and pro-environmental behavior varies both within and between societies: A social dilemma analysis
Joint Workshop | 2016.1.19

Date & Time : 2016. 1. 19 (Tue) 14:45-16:15

Location: Hokkaido University, Faculty of Letters, room E304

Speaker: Prof. Kim-Pong Tam (The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology)

Title: Magnitude of the gap between environmental awareness and pro-environmental behavior varies both within and between societies: A social dilemma analysis

Abstract: To engage the public in mitigation of environmental problems, governments and environmental organizations alike often rely on information-based campaigns; the underlying assumption is that environmental knowledge increases environmental awareness and concern, which in turn lead to behavioral change. Unfortunately, past research findings have proven this assumption wrong; there is a gap between possession of environmental awareness and display of pro-environmental behavior. It is imperative now to investigate how this gap can be narrowed. Adopting the social dilemma perspective, we put forward that people who know or care about environmental problems are reluctant to contribute through changing their behavior because they fear free riders. We further argue that generalized trust can temper this fear because it allows people to expect that others also contribute. Accordingly, we hypothesize that the association between environmental awareness and pro-environmental behavior is stronger when generalized trust is higher. Because generalized trust varies both across individuals and across societies, we also hypothesize that the strength of this association varies both within and between societies. With multilevel analyses on the International Social Survey Programme data from 32 countries, we found support to these hypotheses. Taken together, these findings not only provide a new perspective on pro-environmental behavior but also suggest how environmental campaigns can improve. In addition, they highlight the need for future studies to explore cross-national variations in already known phenomena regarding environmental attitude and behavior (e.g., gender difference, effect of values).

Asuka Murata, Assistant Professor of Center for Experimental Research in Social Sciences
e-mail: asukamurata@lynx.let.hokudai.ac.jp, tel: 011-706-230