Urgency and Pro-Environmental Behavior: Motivating or Discouraging?

"This project explores the effect of urgent messaging on willingness to engage in pro-environmental behavior through a series of online experiments. In Study 1, participants read a passage about an endangered species containing urgency framing for the treatment group. We measure the effect on pro-environmental behavior through participant donations to an environmental charity and find a positive urgency treatment effect. Study 2 also uses passages to treat participants but instead of a donation decision, participants reported words to describe the tone of the passage and their emotional response to it. We found that both urgent tone and a more dire situation were read as more urgent by participants, but when the tone and content of the message did not match, proxies for motivation and optimism about environmental conservation dropped. Study 3 resembled Study 1 but added to the control passages a statement that the situation is remediable and a normative message that the reader should take action, elements that are part of the urgency treatment. As there was no longer an urgency treatment effect, we infer that the added elements were likely causing the effect in Study 1, suggesting that temporal scarcity and salience of urgency framing alone do not seem effective without knowledge action is possible and a normative nudge. Overall, the three studies show that urgency can have both positive and negative effects on pro-environmental behavior, depending on elements that accompany the message. "

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