In his response to our earlier briefing, Nick Gallie has attempted to reconcile the Value Modes approach with the Common Cause approach, suggesting that there is room for both in motivating pro-environmental actions.
Gallie’s essay comes after a recent series of exchanges. Specifically, in our Common Cause Briefing, we responded to Chris Rose’s past claim that:
“…once the underlying dominant unmet need is met, a new one takes its place… So, if Prospectors meet that need by getting enough stuff and following sufficient fashion etc, they do not stay Prospectors but develop other needs – i.e., they become Pioneers”
And Pat Dade’s past claim that:
“[S]atisfying people’s needs, in Maslow terms, acts as a means of fulfilling a needs set and thereby saps or lessens the strength of that value set to influence behaviour”
Our briefing reported the results of a short survey conducted on several psychologists with expertise in these topics. We found that none of these psychologists believed that there was evidence supporting the ideas put forth by Dade & Rose. We then challenged Dade and Rose to produce empirical or theoretical evidence to support these claims, but none has been presented as yet.
In his reflections on this debate, Gallie raises some points with which we agree. For instance, he writes that:
“no one is disputing that status driven values based action, if rewarded, will tend to reinforce that value priority, at least for a while.”
We are pleased to see that Gallie agrees with us (and with the several psychologists whom we surveyed) on this point, as our reading of Dade & Rose’s past writings suggests that they have disputed this claim.
We find ourselves unconvinced, however, with Gallie’s main attempt to provide a justification for conciliation between the Value Modes and Common Cause viewpoints.
Much of Gallie’s attempt to provide this conciliation rests on “the consistency principle.” In particular, Gallie writes:
“Rose cites Caldini’s (sic) consistency principle to support the view that one pro environmental status driven behaviour is likely to be followed by another, as needs are satisfied and new needs take their place. Caldini (sic) cites extensive empirical evidence in support of the principle.”
“Once you have begun to act in line with these values you will tend to see the world more clearly from this perspective and continue this line of action for as long as it is rewarded, somehow. Such a trajectory will tend to drive you into opposition to change models based on extrinsic value.”
Rose has proposed something similar, writing:
“[O]ur green car buying Prospector may be expected to develop opinions consistent with green cars making sense – for example buying a green car is a smart purchase [i.e. it makes me look smart] – and there is a good reason to have one [e.g. climate change exists]. And they are more likely to repeat a similar action so long as it is inside their values set.” (Parentheses in original)
Because Gallie based his argument on the popular book Influence, by Cialdini (2001), we were curious to see where this well-known psychologist discussed evidence relevant to Gallie and Rose’s argument.
The only place in that book where we found direct reference to a study that applied these principles to environmental sustainability was on pages 87-90. There, Cialdini discusses a 1980 study by Pallak, Cook & Sullivan which found that encouraging homeowners to conserve energy by offering to publish their names in newspapers as “public-spirited, fuel conserving citizens” led to decreases in energy usage that were maintained even after the homeowners were told that such publication would not be available. Certainly this can be understood as an appeal to extrinsic values that was successful, and thus supports both Value Modes and Common Cause arguments that such appeals can indeed motivate pro-environmental behaviour.
However, we would note that in explaining the results of the study, Cialdini makes it clear (on pages 88 and 90) that his interpretation of these results is a speculation that was not actually tested in the study. Further, there is nothing in Cialdini’s description of this single study suggesting that this manipulation led participants to generalize these behaviours to any new behaviours that benefited the environment.
We also have some familiarity with the kinds of consistency-based models to which Gallie (and Rose) refer in support of their viewpoint that appeals based on extrinsic values can help people “graduate” to more pro-environmental concerns.
Specifically, in a paper published in 2009 in the Journal of Consumer Policy, one of us (Crompton) collaborated with John Thogersen (perhaps the world’s leading expert on spillover in pro-environmental behaviour) to review the evidence about how specific pro-environmental behaviours might generalize to other such behaviours, and how this process might be explained by two important “consistency theories”: self-perception and cognitive dissonance.
The paper concluded:
“Spillover hypotheses derived from Bem’s (1972) self-perception theory are based on the assumption that performing a pro-environmental behaviour activates the person’s pro-environmental disposition and makes pro-environmental values and norms more salient. For this mechanism to lead to spillover, the person needs to have a pro-environmental disposition of sufficient strength. Consistent with this inference, spillover between different behaviour categories has been found to depend on the strength of the person’s pro-environmental values (Thøgersen & Ölander, 2003). Moreover, one study found that the tendency to behave consistently across pairs of pro-environmental behaviours depends on how morally important it is for the person to act in an environmentally responsible way (Thøgersen, 2004). Together, these studies suggest that positive spillover of pro-environmental behaviour is contingent on sufficiently strong pro-environmental values or norms.
This perspective is further supported by evidence on cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is more likely to motivate an individual to extend pro-environmental behaviour, rather than reduce this, in the context of a strong set of pro-environmental values and norms.” (Thøgersen and Crompton, 2009: 153).
Thus, it is far from clear that pro-environmental behaviours generalise in the way that Gallie and Rose describe. Further, the evidence suggests that to the extent that pro-environmental behaviour may generalise, this effect will be strongest for people for whom intrinsic values are more important.
Yet, as we have reviewed elsewhere, such values are likely to be eroded through appeals for pro-environmental behaviour framed through values for money, image or status.
Finally, we would note that Gallie and Rose’s arguments are not consistent with the results of a recent study by Griskevicius, Tybur, and Van Den Bergh, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2010.
These researchers directly investigated how appeals to status can activate pro-environmental behaviours, and found that, indeed, they can (a point on which both the Common Cause and the Value Modes approaches agree). Indeed, these authors made many statements throughout their article suggesting that they agree with Rose, Dade and Gallie that marketers should make appeals to purchase green products on the basis of appeals to status. At the same time, they also emphasized that their research showed that appeals to status only “increased desire for less luxurious green products when shopping in public, but not in private,” and only when the products were expensive, not cheap.
The authors seem to have understood their finding as occurring because individuals can convey status through their green purchases only if those purchases are publicly presented and expensive. Thus, these empirical results once again provide no evidence for “graduation” to intrinsic reasons for environmentalism.
On the contrary, they again suggest that such graduation does not occur, and that the only way to maintain environmentalism after appeals to status is through more appeals to status. As we have been arguing for three years now, as the psychologists who we surveyed in our briefing agreed, and as Gallie recently conceded, such appeals are likely to strengthen the very values that the research consistently shows are associated with worse environmental attitudes and behaviors.
In conclusion, we appreciate Gallie’s attempt at reconciliation and the thoughtfulness of his reply. However, we remain convinced that the body of data relevant to this question supports the claim that appeals to extrinsic values are unlikely to result in the kinds of shifts in attitudes or changes in lifestyles which Gallie, Rose, or Dade continue to claim might occur.
We have continued to present evidence supporting our viewpoint, and still await any persuasive evidence from the proponents who support Value Modes – in support either of their earlier claims (based on Maslow and Schwartz) or their more recent claims (based on “consistency theories”).
Tim Kasser and Tom Crompton
Cialdini, R. B. (2001). Influence: Science & Practice. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Griskevicius, V., Tybur, J. M., & Van den Bergh, B. (2010). Going green to be seen: Status, reputation, and conspicuous conservation. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 98, 392-404.
Pallak, M. S., Cook, D. A., & Sullivan, J. J. (1980). Commitment and energy conservation. Applied Social Psychology Annual, 1, 235-253.
Thøgersen, J. and Crompton, T. (2009). Simple and painless: The limitations of spillover in environmental campaigning. Journal of Consumer Policy, 32, 141-163.