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Santa Clara University Professor Studies Whether Ecological Footprint Feedback Motivates or Discourages Sustainable Behavior

Wednesday, May. 4, 2011

Santa Clara University Assistant Professor of Psychology Amara Brook studied how likely people were to change their behavior if they learned that their lifestyle was environmentally unsustainable. She wrote about it in an article titled "Ecological Footprint Feedback: Motivating or Discouraging?" which was published in Social Influence.

Brook studied 212 undergraduate college students. In the first week, they answered questions on how much they based their self-worth on their environmental behavior. In the second week, they completed an ecological footprint questionnaire and received bogus positive or negative feedback about their ecological footprint. The students were then given the opportunity to write a letter to a politician on any public policy issue of their choice. Whether they wrote a pro-environmental letter was the measurement of their pro-environmental behavior.

The results showed that negative ecological footprint feedback only slightly increased pro-environmental behavior for people who were already personally committed to environmentalism, and decreased pro-environmental political behavior among people who were not already committed to environmentalism. These results suggest that footprint feedback may motivate committed environmentalists to behave more sustainably, but for other people it may backfire.

For media interviews and/or a copy of Brook’s article contact:
Connie Kim Coutain | ccoutain@scu.edu | 408-554-5126 O | 408-829-4836 C

Tags: Amara Brook, discouraging, ecological footprint feedback, motivating, social influence

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