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Intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation to protect the environment: correlational and causal evidence

Pugno, Maurizio and Sarracino, Francesco (2021): Intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation to protect the environment: correlational and causal evidence.

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Abstract

Understanding why many people spontaneously perform pro-environmental behaviours, rather than requiring some incentive, is an active area of research. To solve the puzzle, many studies address people's intrinsic motivation for this kind of behaviour. However, the term "intrinsic" remains unclear, and thus also the solution of the puzzle. We contribute to this research by attaching intrinsic and extrinsic motivation to the pursuit of central goals in people's lives. We take the prominent example of the motivations in looking for a job, and relate these motivations to pro-environmental attitudes and engagements. Using an international sample, we find that intrinsic motivation relates positively and extrinsic motivation relates negatively to a variety of subjective pro-environmental outcomes. This result holds for different sub-samples and for various econometric specifications and methodologies. In particular, two-stage least squares estimation with proper instruments provides evidence of a causal relationship between motivations and pro-environmental outcomes.

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