Feel bad, be good: The effect of negative moral emotions on pro-environmental behavior intention

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This study investigates the influence of guilt and shame on pro-environmental behavior intention, and subsequently examines the moderating role of self-efficacy and collective efficacy on guilt and shame. Existing research on negative moral emotions shows that they may positively contribute to fostering pro-environmental behavior intention. A key factor in this relationship is the fact that these emotions are part of the self-conscious family of moral emotions, meaning that they may stimulate self-reflection and self-evaluation, and therefore a change in behavior. Self-efficacy and collective efficacy are subject to the same kind of logic, since efficacy beliefs also contribute to a process of self-reflection. The current study thus hypothesizes that self-efficacy and collective efficacy positively moderate the relationship between negative moral emotions and pro-environmental behavior intention. A quantitative approach was taken by means of an experimental survey, whereby a narrative was used to induce guilt and shame among respondents. Results show that guilt and shame both stimulate consumers’ pro-environmental behavior intention, but that there is no evidence for moderation of self-efficacy and collective efficacy. Age and environmental attitude are also proven to play a significant role in encouraging pro-environmental behavior, and therefore pose as an interesting topic for further research. Future researchers are also recommended to study negative moral emotions in different contexts, for example by using guilt and shame appeals in print and video advertisements, and by controlling for different demographic groups.
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