Acting in an environmentally friendly manner can lead people to perceive a slightly higher ambient temperature - the warm glow of doing a good deed - reports a study published this week in Nature Climate Change. These findings suggest that the psychological reward for pro-environmental actions may be sufficient to encourage “green” behaviour.
To look at the psychology of acting in an environmentally friendly way, Danny Taufik and colleagues set up a study in which psychology students completed a questionnaire about their carbon footprint. On receiving their carbon footprint score, the students learned that the lower their score, the more environmentally friendly their behaviour is. Next, participants were given a bogus carbon footprint score for the average student, so that they could compare their score with this average. Participants were also asked to state what temperature they thought the room they were sitting in was. Those who learned that they had acted more environmentally friendly compared with the average person, rated the room about one degree Celsius warmer than those that perceived the opposite.
The authors conclude that the intrinsic reward from feeling that one is environmentally conscious may be more effective in promoting green thinking than extrinsic rewards that try to give monetary value to such behaviour.