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date: 16 October 2019

Summary and Keywords

Environmental sustainability, the long-term management and protection of earth’s resources and ecosystems, is increasingly recognized as a societal challenge shaped by human behavior at every level of social interaction, from neighborhoods to nations. Psychological perspectives on conservation, which have traditionally emphasized individual determinants of proenvironmental behavior (e.g., personal environmental concern), have begun to incorporate a more nuanced picture of the ways in which both individual and group-level processes can influence conservation efforts. In particular, research on social norms and identity-based influences suggests that social perceptions, such as beliefs about what actions are common and socially valued, can be more powerful drivers of conservation behavior than monetary incentives, proenvironmental appeals, or the ease of proenvironmental actions. Additional research has begun to incorporate cross-cultural perspectives and insights from diversity science and intervention science to better understand how different cultural orientations and social identity processes, such as those related to race, ethnicity, and social class, impact environmental decision-making. A new class of “wise” interventions that target psychological mechanisms that shape conservation behavior, such as interventions that incorporate normative feedback, target public behavior, or seek to alter daily routines during major life transitions, have proven especially effective at promoting sustained behavior change. Generally, behavioral interventions are more effective at promoting conservation behavior when they are tailored to the social context in which behavior occurs.

Keywords: social psychology, conservation psychology, environmental psychology, social identity, social influence, sustainability, group processes, climate change

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