Chilling results: how explicit warm glow appeals fail to boost pro-environmental behaviour


We conducted a large-scale online experiment to examine whether climate change messaging can induce emotions and motivate pro-environmental action. We study how exposure to explicit positive (‘warm glow’) and negative (‘cold prickle’) emotional appeals as well as a traditional social norm communication affects pro-environmental action. We find that a simple call to take action to mitigate climate change is at least as affective as social norm message framing and emotional appeals. Our results highlight the difficulty of designing messaging interventions that effectively harness emotional incentives to promote pro-environmental action. Messages that explicitly emphasise the personal emotional benefits of contributing to environmental causes or the adverse emotional effects of not doing so seem to fall short of motivating pro-environmental effort. Our findings underscore the need for caution when incorporating emotive appeals into policy interventions.

Behavioural Public Policy
Paul Lohmann
Paul Lohmann
Research Associate

My research interests include behavioural environmental economics and field experiments.