Raimi et al. publish analysis on pro-environmental spillover behaviors in Nature

April 12, 2019

Assistant Professor Kaitlin Raimi co-authored a recent study published in the journal Nature Sustainability on April 9, 2019. The article addresses the presence of behavior spillover, or the likelihood that one behavioral change will lead to another, when it comes to pro-environmental actions. 

Titled “Meta-analysis of pro-environmental behaviour spillover,” authors Alexander Maki, Amanda R. Carrico, Kaitlin T. Raimi, Heather Barnes Truelove, Brandon Araujo, and Kam Leung Yeung, ask “When people engage in a first pro-environmental behaviour, are they more or less likely...to engage in other pro-environmental behaviours?” 

The research was inspired by common misperceptions made by policymakers and activists promoting environmentally beneficial actions. The former often cite worries that promoting individual, voluntary pro-environmental behaviors, such as recycling, will make more substantive changes harder to promote nationally. The latter, on the other hand, feel that changing the behaviors of individuals will make bigger changes more approachable. This article, the first meta-analysis done of this environmental research problem, sifts through the data to find overall effects of intentions and actual behaviors of “pro-environmental behavioral spillover.”

They found that whether or not this makes a difference depends on the types of interventions and behaviors taken, with intrinsic motivation and “interventions that target two very similar behaviors.” 

Tweeting about the article, Raimi cautions policymakers and activists, saying “we need to pay attention to spillover effects in environmental interventions; we don’t need to lose sleep over them.”

Read the journal article on Nature.com

Kaitlin Raimi is an assistant professor of public policy at the Ford School. Her interests center on how social motivations have the potential to promote or prevent sustainable behaviors, with a focus on climate change beliefs and behaviors.