Researcher ORCID Identifier

Date of Award

Summer 2018

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Psychology, PhD


School of Behavioral and Organizational Sciences

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Allen M. Omoto

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

William D. Crano

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Adam R. Pearson

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Janet K. Swim

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2018 Matthew T Ballew


Psychology, Conservation psychology, Emotions, Environmental communication, Positive psychology, Proenvironmental action

Subject Categories

Psychology | Social Psychology


Addressing environmental problems like climate change requires substantial collective action. The power of emotions in driving proenvironmental action is receiving increased research attention; however, less is known about which distinct emotions most strongly influence behavior. Emerging research suggests that anticipating positive emotions, such as pride, for performing proenvironmental actions may especially impact sustained and broader forms of environmental engagement, or the extent to which people persist in their behavior over time and take action in a variety of different ways. The present research conceptualizes emotions across three dimensions: the valence of the emotion (i.e., positive or negative), whether the emotion is considered a moral emotion (e.g., pride, guilt), and the extent to which the emotion is specifically tied to a behavior (e.g., saving energy). Positive behavior-specific emotions, specifically feelings of pride, were hypothesized to most strongly influence energy conservation, as well as broad proenvironmental action (e.g., water conservation, intentions to invest in energy efficiency) relative to other emotions or affective states.

Across Study 1 (N = 385 MTurk participants) and Study 2 (N = 568 MTurk participants), correlational results indicated that anticipating positive emotions tied to saving energy, as well as negative emotions for not saving energy, are both relatively strong predictors of self-reported energy conservation and broad proenvironmental action. Findings also indicated that positive behavior-specific emotions were, on average, slightly (but not significantly) stronger predictors of action than negative behavior-specific emotions. Study 3 (N = 306 MTurk participants) consisted of a 2 (valence: positive, negative) x 2 (emotion type: moral, non-moral) between-subjects design to experimentally manipulate behavior-specific emotions tied to energy conservation via a persuasive communication. It was hypothesized that the positive, moral emotion-based communication would most strongly impact energy efficiency intentions (e.g., to invest in energy efficient technologies) and broader proenvironmental action two weeks later. Results indicated only a main effect of valence: communications emphasizing the connection between positive emotions and saving energy, as opposed to negative emotions for not saving energy, had a stronger effect on energy efficiency intentions and, in turn, self-reported proenvironmental behavior two weeks later. Statistically, there was no significant direct effect of the positive emotion communication on behavior—only a marginally significant indirect effect through intentions. There was no effect of moral emotions and no interaction with valence.

Taken together, these studies provide evidence that positive behavior-specific emotions (i.e., expecting to feel good for saving energy) may facilitate sustained action over time, as well as action more broadly, relative to negative behavior-specific emotions. There is less compelling evidence that moral emotions tied to actions, such as pride, have an especially strong impact on intentions and behavior. Findings have implications for programs and communications on which emotions to target to more effectively promote behavior change, persistence, and broad environmental engagement.