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Recent research has shown that compassionate feelings for the suffering environment promote conservation of nature. We extend this notion and relate compassion for suffering humans to proenvironmental tendencies. The proposed relation should hold true as compassion elicits moral actions and judgments across different moral domains which should also be applicable to the environment. Therefore, we expect compassion for other humans to relate positively to proenvironmental tendencies. Two studies were conducted to test this assumption. Study 1 included three independent samples (final N = 2,096) and several measures of proenvironmental tendencies. Results revealed that compassion was indeed positively related to proenvironmental values, proenvironmental intentions and reported donations to nature or environmental organizations. In Study 2 we experimentally tested and found a causal path between compassion for humans and proenvironmental intentions. Implications for climate change and protection of nature are discussed.
Feelings for the suffering of others and the environment:
Compassion fosters proenvironmental tendencies
Stefan Pfattheicher1, Claudia Sassenrath1,2, & Simon Schindler3
1 Ulm University, Germany, 2 Knowledge Media Research Center, Tübingen, Germany,
3 Kassel University, Germany
Address correspondence to
Stefan Pfattheicher
Universität Ulm
Abteilung Sozialpsychologie
89069 Ulm, Germany
+49-(0)731/50 31161
Recent research has shown that compassionate feelings for the suffering environment promote
conservation of nature. We extend this notion and relate compassion for suffering humans to
proenvironmental tendencies. The proposed relation should hold true as compassion elicits moral
actions and judgments across different moral domains which should also be applicable to the
environment. Therefore, we expect compassion for other humans to relate positively to
proenvironmental tendencies. Two studies were conducted to test this assumption. Study 1
included three independent samples (final N = 2,096) and several measures of proenvironmental
tendencies. Results revealed that compassion was indeed positively related to proenvironmental
values, proenvironmental intentions and reported donations to nature or environmental
organizations. In Study 2 we experimentally tested and found a causal path between compassion
for humans and proenvironmental intentions. Implications for climate change and protection of
nature are discussed.
Word count: 139
Keywords: compassion; conservation; environment; environmental concern; morality;
proenvironmental tendencies
In recent years, other-oriented tendencies have been shown to be an important factor for
proenvironmental behavior (e.g., Berenguer, 2007, 2010; Hopper & Nielsen, 1991; Schultz, 2001,
2002; Tam, 2013). That is to say, along with other basic motivations (i.e., self-interest and justice
concerns; e.g., Griskevicius, Tybur, & Den Bergh, 2010; Parris, Hegtvedt, Watson, & Johnson,
2014), other-oriented tendencies have been considered to foster proenvironmental behavior in a
conclusive way. The present work investigates one important other-oriented tendency, that is,
compassion for other individuals, with regard to proenvironmental tendencies. It has already been
shown that specific compassion for the environment relates to proenvironmental intentions (e.g.,
Berenguer, 2007, 2010; Tam, 2013). We extend this notion and relate compassion for the suffering
of other individuals to proenvironmental tendencies. Indeed, Tam (2013) recently claimed that the
relation between compassion for humans and environmental behavior needs investigation to
acquire a better theoretical understanding of this relation. In this sense, the present research
addresses a gap in this field in that we study whether compassion for other individuals influence
proenvironmental tendencies.
Specifically, in the present work we argue that compassion for other individuals should
lead to proenvironmental tendencies as compassion guides moral actions and judgments across
different moral domains which should be also applicable to the environment (Goetz et al., 2010;
Haidt, 2003; McCullough, Kilpatrick, Emmons, & Larson, 2001). Therefore, we expect
compassion for other individuals to relate positively to proenvironmental tendencies. The rationale
for this assumption is outlined in detail below.
We define compassion in line with Lazarus (1991) who emphasized that the core theme of
compassion is being moved by another’s suffering (see also Haidt, 2003). Accordingly, the
essence of compassion is feelings that are elicited in response to suffering others (for a compelling
review on compassion, see Goetz, Keltner, & Simon-Thomas, 2010).
It is noteworthy that other terms that have been used in this context are “empathic concern”
or “empathy” in general, instead of compassion. In fact, empathic concern is often used
interchangeably with compassion (cf. Batson, 2009; Goetz et al., 2010; Singer & Klimeki, 2014).
Basically, empathy can be considered to be a more general construct including perspective taking,
emotional sharing, and a concern for suffering others (i.e., compassion; Decety & Cowell, 2014).
Thus, compassion constitutes one dimension of empathy, while empathy consists of additional
dimensions (Batson, 2009; Singer & Klimeki, 2014). In the present work, we used the term
compassion rather than the general term empathy in order to make explicit that the present work
focuses on feelings for the suffering of others.
As a consequence of compassion, a “prosocial action tendency” is elicited (Haidt, 2003)
especially when the suffering other deserves help and one has the resources to help (Goetz et al.,
2010). Hence, compassionate individuals follow the ultimate moral goal of preventing and
relieving the suffering of others as well as improving others’ welfare. In this regard, compassion
has been shown to be associated with a concern for humanity (Goetz et al., 2010; Sprecher & Fehr,
2005). This applies to, for instance, helping vulnerable others, volunteerism, and donations to a
common group project (Batson, O’Quin, Fultz, Vanderplas, Isen, 1983; Eisenberg, McCreath, &
Ahn, 1988; Eisenberg et al., 1989; Omoto, Malsch, & Barraza, 2009). Compassion should not be
restricted to the suffering of humans but should also apply to the suffering of other species (e.g.,
Mehrabian & Epstein, 1972; Tam, 2013). That is to say, compassion elicits moral judgments and
actions across different moral domains (Goetz et al., 2010; Haidt, 2003; McCullough et al., 2001).
Consequently, compassion is included in the spectrum of basic moral emotions (Haidt, 2003).
Regarding proenvironmental tendencies, a concern for the suffering of nature (e.g., a
suffering tree) strengthened environmental attitudes and the moral obligation to help nature.
(Berenguer, 2007). Recently, Tam (2013) proposed that empathy with suffering nature is one
fundamental factor in predicting proenvironmental behavior. Schultz (2001, see also Stern, Dietz,
& Kalof, 1993) suggested that biospheric environmental concerns, that is, individuals’ concern for
plants, animals, marine life, and birds predicts proenvironmental behavior. That is to say, a
concern for the environment (i.e., the other-oriented tendencies of environmental concern,
empathy and feelings for nature) promotes engagement in proenvironmental tendencies (Karpiak
& Baril, 2008; Gosling & Wiliams, 2010; Mayer & McPherson Frantz, 2004; Milfont & Sibley,
2012; Raymond, Brown, & Robinson, 2011; Schultz, 2001, 2002; Stern et al., 1993; Tam, 2013).
Building on the notion that compassion elicits moral judgments and actions across different
moral domains (Goetz et al., 2010; Haidt, 2003; McCullough et al., 2001), we assume that
compassion elicits the morality-driven motivation to prevent and to relieve suffering and to
improve others’ welfare which should also include nature and the environment. As a consequence,
we expect compassion for humans to relate positively to proenvironmental tendencies. These
assumptions are tested in two empirical studies as reported below.
In Study 1 we hypothesized that dispositional compassion for humans is positively related
to proenvironmental tendencies. In this study, different proenvironmental tendencies were
measured which was done in three independent samples. Specifically, we assessed: (a)
individuals’ dispositional compassionate tendencies for other humans (in all samples), (b)
proenvironmental values (in Sample 1), (c) proenvironmental intentions (in Sample 2), and (d)
whether participants report having donated money to nature or environmental organizations (in
Sample 3).
Participants. Study 1 involved two samples of students from a German university (Sample
1: N = 101; Mage = 20.6; 85.1% females; Sample 2: N = 60; Mage = 22.9; 56.7% females). Sample 3
consists of a representative study (the LISS Panel) taken in the Netherlands (N = 1.935; Mage =
51.7; 53.4% females). The participants in Sample 1 completed the measures at a computer
laboratory at the university; Sample 2 completed a paper/pencil study; Sample 3 completed an
online survey. Unless indicated otherwise, all scale endpoints of self-report items were labelled
(1) not at all true and (7) completely true.
Compassion. We measured dispositional compassion using an emotional empathy scale
(see also Saslow et al., 2013, for this approach). In all samples, an adapted version of the
emotional empathy scale developed by Mehrabian and Epstein (1972) was used to assess
compassion (for validation of the scale and items see Keller & Pfattheicher, 2013). A sample item
of the nine-item scale reads: “It makes me sad to see a lonely stranger in a group; (MSample1 =
5.36, SDSample1 = 0.85, α = .81; MSample2 = 4.98, SDSample2 = 0.76, α = .75; MSample3 = 4.39, SDSample3
= 1.10, α = .87).
Proenvironmental values. In Sample 1, we assessed basic individual values as proposed by
Schwartz et al. (2012). The value that is particularly relevant here is “universalism–nature” which
reflects individuals’ concern for preserving the environment (M = 3.32, SD = 1.23, α = .91). A
sample item of the three-item scale reads: “Caring for nature is very important to him/her” (results
involving the other values are available on request).
Proenvironmental intentions. In Sample 2, proenvironmental intentions were assessed
using an adapted version of the environmental behavior scale (Schultz & Zelezny, 1998; Schultz,
Zelezny, & Dalrymple, 2000). The original scale relates to behavior in the past (e.g., “I often
looked for ways to reuse things”). We rephrased the items slightly in order to obtain a measure for
future proenvironmental behavior (M = 5.24, SD = 0.98, α = .83), thereby allowing the
measurement of proenvironmental intentions in experiments (as in Study 2). A sample item of the
eight-item scale reads: In future, I will look for ways to reuse things”.
Proenvironmental donations. In Sample 3, the representative sample, participants were
asked to indicate whether they donate money to one or more nature or environmental
organizations”. They could answer this question by stating yes (42.2%) or no (57.8%). Due to the
panel character of the LISS study, proenvironmental donations were assessed in October 2009;
compassion in this sample was assessed in February 2011.1
Social desirability. In Sample 3, social desirability was assessed via the Crowne-Marlowe
Scale (1960; alpha = .52) in May 2011. This measure was included in our analyses to rule out the
possibility that the relation between compassion and proenvironmental tendencies is merely a
result of socially desirable responding (cf. Batson, 2011). This is particularly important given that
proenvironmental behavior was self-reported. A sample item of the ten-item scale reads: “I have
never intensely disliked anyone”. The items could be answered by stating yes (1) or no (0). The
sum score (min = 0, max = 10) had a mean of 5.91 (SD = 1.96).
Results and Discussion
Compassion was shown to be significantly positively correlated with proenvironmental
values, r(99) = .28, p < .01, and proenvironmental intentions, r(58) = .27, p < .05. Compassion
could also significantly predict proenvironmental donations in a logistic regression (B = 0.17, SE =
.04, p < .001, Nagelkerke’s R² = .011), that is, the stronger a participant’s dispositional
compassion the higher the chance that they would donate to one or more nature or environmental
organizations. Including the factor of social desirability in this analysis did not change the
coefficient of compassion (B = 0.17, SE = .04, p < .001). Social desirability was not significantly
related to proenvironmental donations (B = .15, SE = .24, p = .52).
These results consistently support our hypothesis that compassion for the suffering of
others positively relates to proenvironmental tendencies beyond socially desirable responding.
Regarding the correlations, we found a medium effect size (Cohen, 1988) which corresponds to
the average effect size in social psychology estimated across 100 years (Richard et al., 2003).
As a next step we tested the causal relation between compassion and proenvironmental
tendencies. Therefore, in Study 2 compassion was manipulated and proenvironmental tendencies
were subsequently assessed. Before we report this study we introduce and validate an easily
applicable manipulation to induce compassion, which was then applied in Study 2.
Participants and procedure. Sixty-eight students from a German university (Mage = 24.92,
SD = 5.55, 71.1% females) participated in an online study.
Manipulation of compassion. Our manipulation of compassion was based on two works:
Batson et al. (1997) and Oveis, Horberg, and Keltner (2010). Oveis and colleagues (2010; see also
Oveis, Cohen, Gruber, Shiota, Haidt, & Keltner, 2009) induced compassion using fifteen
emotional pictures displaying suffering individuals. We used two of these pictures, a homeless
person leaning against the wall of a house and a diseased child, ensuring that none of the pictures
included any reference to the environment and nature. In our validation study, all participants were
presented each picture for ten seconds. Participants were randomly assigned to either the high-
compassion condition (n = 34) or the low-compassion condition (n = 34). In the high-compassion
conditions, before viewing the pictures participants read compassion promoting instructions for
how they should view the pictures (cf. Batson et al., 1997, Study 3; Batson, Chang, Orr, &
Rowland, 2002). Participants read “It is important for the study that you imagine how the pictured
persons feel. Try to feel what the persons are currently going through and how they feel. You can
let yourself be guided by your feelings.” In the low-compassion condition, participants read “It is
important for the study that you stay objective when viewing the pictures. Try not to let yourself
be guided by your feelings. That is, try to stay neutral and detached.”
Dependent variables. To check whether the introduced manipulation actually produces a
difference in state compassion between the two conditions, we measured state compassion directly
after the presentation of the two pictures. Participants rated each item on a seven-point Likert scale
to indicate how they currently felt. We used the five items for measuring compassionate states
taken from Batson and colleagues (Batson, 1987, 1991; Batson et al., 1995): sympathetic, tender,
soft-hearted, compassionate, and moved. These items (α = .91) were averaged to compose a
compassion index. In order to present the compassion items in a meaningful context and to reduce
demand effects, we embedded the compassion items into the ten-item short form of the Positive
= .56) and Negative (α = .62) Affect Schedule (PANAS; Mackinnon et al., 1999). Given that the
item “moved” of the negative subscale of the PANAS is already part of the compassion index, it
was not considered in the negative subscale of the PANAS.
Results and Discussion
Analysis revealed a significant difference (t(66) = 2.79, p < .01; Cohen’s d = .67) in state
compassion between the high-compassion condition (M = 4.76, SD = 1.08) and the low-
compassion condition (M = 3.89, SD = 1.46). There was no significant difference (t(66) = 1.66, p
= .11) in negative affect (high-compassion condition, M = 2.69, SD = 1.05; low-compassion
condition, M = 2.29, SD = 0.94; Cohen’s d = .40) and positive affect (t(66) = 1.16, p = .25; high-
compassion condition, M = 2.61, SD = 0.72; low-compassion condition, M = 2.84, SD = 0.91;
Cohen’s d = .28).
The results indicate a successful manipulation of compassion. The aim of the study was to
develop an easily applicable and valid method to manipulate compassion. The findings of the
validation study speak to the applicability of the manipulation. We applied this manipulation in the
study reported below to test the hypothesis that state compassion leads to proenvironmental
Participants and procedure. Ninety-four students from a German university (Mage = 22.97,
SD = 2.58, 46.8% females) participated in this paper-pencil study.
Manipulation of compassion. We applied the manipulation of compassion as outlined in
the validation study above, resulting in a high-compassion condition and a low-compassion
condition. Participants were randomly assigned to either the high-compassion condition (n = 47)
or the low-compassion condition (n = 47). Instead of presenting each picture for precisely ten
seconds as in our (online) validation study, we asked participants to look at each picture for
approximately ten seconds.
Given the findings of the Validation Study, which suggest that our approach reflects a
successful manipulation of compassion, we did not again include the compassion state items of the
Validation Study in this study. The choice to not include the manipulation check items is in line
with research showing that even simple measurements of psychological states (e.g., manipulation
checks) can bias subsequence measurements (Kühnen, 2010).
Dependent variable. Subsequent to the manipulation of compassion, proenvironmental
intentions (α = .83) were assessed as in Study 1.
Results and Discussion
Analysis revealed a significant difference between the two conditions, t(92) = 2.70, p < .01
(Cohen’s d = .55). Participants in the high-compassion condition reported more proenvironmental
intentions (M = 5.15, SD = 0.90) compared with those in the low-compassion condition (M = 4.62,
SD = 1.01). Hence, in line with our hypothesis that compassion promotes proenvironmental
tendencies, the present results extend the findings of Study 1 by establishing a causal relation
between compassion and proenvironmental tendencies.
The present work has investigated one important other-oriented tendency, namely
compassion for other humans, with regard to proenvironmental tendencies. Specifically, in two
studies we documented that compassion is positively related to proenvironmental tendencies. Most
importantly, we could establish a causal path between compassion and proenvironmental
tendencies indicating that compassion for other individuals indeed promotes proenvironmental
tendencies. These findings take into consideration a recent claim by Tam (2013) that the relation
between compassion for humans and environmental tendencies need investigation.
Overall, the present research is in line with approaches highlighting other-oriented
tendencies as crucial factors fostering proenvironmental tendencies. For instance, Berenguer
(2007; 2010) and Tam (2013) have proposed that a specific concern for the suffering of nature
fosters proenvironmental tendencies. In the present work, we extend this notion and show that
individuals report stronger proenvironmental tendencies in the high-compassion condition
compared with the low-compassion condition. Accordingly, our work extends the conceptually
close relation of a concern for nature and proenvironmental behavior.
Beyond these contributions to the field of other-oriented tendencies and proenvironmental
behavior, several other points are noteworthy. First, we document the relation between
compassion and proenvironmental tendencies in several independent samples thus acknowledging
recent claims emphasizing replication in psychology (e.g., IJzerman, Brandt, & Van Wolferen,
2013; Makel, Plucker, & Hegarty, 2012). Second, we show the relation between compassion and
proenvironmental tendencies across different measures of proenvironmental tendencies. Thus, it
seems reasonable to assume that our conclusion of compassion being related to proenvironmental
tendencies is not the result of a specific measure of proenvironmental tendencies. This speaks to
the validity of the relation. Third, we document that compassion relates to proenvironmental
tendencies in a representative sample which was unaffected by socially desirable response
tendencies. As such, the findings seem to hold for a general population and not only for students.
In critically reflecting on the current work, we want to acknowledge the fact that some of
the findings rely on self-report by the participants and no real observed behavior. Self-report
instruments only provide access to information about people’s beliefs about themselves. Also,
there is evidence that self-report instruments including affective response towards stimuli (such as
dispositional compassion) do not align with momentary affective experiences (Feldman Barrett,
1997; Robinson & Clore, 2002). We could handle the issue of self-reported compassion in Study 1
by inducing compassion in Study 2. Yet, proenvironmental intentions are still self-reported and it
is unclear whether participants correctly forecast their intentions and act in a more
proenvironmental way after compassion for humans is induced (cf. Wilson & Gilbert, 2003).
Nonetheless, intentions have been shown to be an important basis for the emergence of real
behavior (cf. Ajzen, 1985). Additionally, in Study 1, Sample 3, participants report whether they
donate money to one or more nature or environmental organization. In sum, while future research
can extend the present research by showing the link between compassion for humans and
proenvironmental behavior, the present contribution represents a meaningful foundation in this
We also want to address another issue. The duration for which participants viewed the
pictures inducing compassion (or not) might have differed between the Validation Study and
Study 2. Given that the Validation Study was an online study we were able to program the precise
duration the two pictures were displayed on the screen (i.e., 10 seconds). The same pictures were
used in Study 2 which was a paper/pencil study. Here, it was technically impossible to ensure that
the pictures were displayed for exactly ten seconds. Therefore, we asked participants “to look at
each picture for approximately ten seconds.” Although there is no guarantee that participants
followed the instructions, it seems likely that participants dealt with the pictures appropriately
because the study was conducted under controlled laboratory conditions (i.e., no external
distraction) and both the high- and the low-compassion condition included a statement
highlighting the importance of viewing the pictures as instructed (see instructions in the Method
section of the Validation Study).
We have proposed that compassion includes a moral concern which should be applicable to
nature and the environment. Beyond that, others processes are possible, which is in line with
recent theorizing emphasizing a multiple process perspective (Bullock, Green, & Ha, 2010;
Fiedler, Schott, & Meiser, 2011; Hayes, 2013). Thus, it seems reasonable to assume that several
routes can lead to specific behavior. Hence, it could be possible that compassion, defined as a
reaction to negative, baleful experiences others are undergoing, implies some sort of negativity
bias also affecting proenvironmental tendencies (Keller & Pfattheicher, 2013). Specifically, if
compassion implies the processing of the negative experiences of other entities then
compassionate individuals might be more likely to consider the potential negative impact that their
non-proenvironmental behavior might have on other entities. Hence, a heightened awareness of
potentially negative developments for others might also contribute to the effect that compassion
has on proenvironmental tendencies.
It is also plausible that “incidental affect” or “incidental emotion” can explain the results.
Specifically, it has been shown that emotional states in one situation can carry over to another
unrelated situation and impact judgment and decision-making (e.g., Bodenhausen, 1993). There is
research on compassion showing carry-over effects of compassion from one situation to another
unrelated one (Condon & DeSteno, 2011; Oveis et al., 2010). Therefore, it is well possible in the
present case that compassion for humans might carry over to the unrelated situation of a concern
for the environment which would result in strengthened proenvironmental tendencies.
We have argued that compassion elicits moral judgments and actions across different
moral domains (Goetz et al., 2010; Haidt, 2003; McCullough, Kilpatrick, Emmons, & Larson,
2001). From this basis we assumed that compassion elicits the morality-driven motivation to
prevent and to relieve suffering which should also be applicable to nature and the environment.
Building on these considerations, it seems possible that political orientations could moderate the
association between compassion for humans and proenvironmental tendencies. Research by
Graham, Haidt, and Nosek (2009) on the basis of moral foundations theory (e.g., Haidt & Graham,
2007; Haidt & Joseph, 2007) shows that liberals endorse a stronger harm/care and
fairness/reciprocity sensitivity compared to conservatives. Conservatives display three other sets
of moral intuitions more strongly than liberals (i.e., ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, and
purity/sanctity). In this regard one could predict that the compassion-for-individuals and
compassion-for-nature link is more pronounced in liberals given that these individuals are
particularly harm sensitive (which corresponds to compassion for suffering humans) as well as
caring sensitive (which corresponds to a concern for the environment and proenvironmental
tendencies). Unfortunately, political orientations were not measured in our studies but it seems
likely that the majority of participants possess liberal attitudes (many are students at a German
university). Thus, the composition of the sample might have provided a basis for the association
between compassion for humans and proenvironmental tendencies. Still, it is an interesting open
question and future research can test political orientations as a moderator.
One could also discuss whether seeing nature suffer is a precondition for the relation of
compassion and proenvironmental tendencies. Indeed, in Study 2, it was not explicitly stated that
nature was suffering. Nonetheless, we found that compassion for other humans promotes
proenvironmental intentions. On this basis one could assume that compassion leads to
proenvironmental tendencies without the suffering of nature being explicitly salient. This is in line
with the conceptualization of compassion as a basic moral emotion (Haidt, 2003) and congruent
with the notion that compassion elicits moral actions and judgments across different moral
domains including proenvironmental tendencies as shown in the present studies.
In addition, it would be relevant for future research to investigate what subjects/objects can
be the target of compassion. Research by Epley and colleagues (Epley, Akalis, Waytz, &
Cacioppo, 2008; Epley, Waytz, & Cacioppo, 2007) has shown that individuals attribute human
mental characteristics and emotions to non-human animals and gadgets (i.e.,
anthropomorphization). This notion is compatible with the findings by Tam (2013) and Berenguer
(2007, 2010) which show that compassion applies to a wide spectrum of targets including
compassion for suffering trees and animals. However, one may speculate that compassion is
restricted to “living” targets (e.g., trees and animals) and not “non-living” targets such as the air or
stones. In general, it is an open question whether compassion promotes proenvironmental
tendencies as an ultimate goal, that is, whether compassionate individuals anthropomorphize
nature and benefit nature as an agent (e.g., Mother Earth; Ahn, Kim, & Aggarwal, 2014; Tam,
Lee, & Chao, 2013; Sacci, Riva, & Brambilla, 2013), or whether compassion promotes
proenvironmental tendencies as an instrumental goal, that is, whether compassionate individuals
benefit nature in order to benefit the lives of others.
As a final step, we want to discuss the applied value of the present contribution. That is,
the present work is also relevant in terms of implications for climate change and protection of
nature. So far, research has shown that specific compassion for the environment fosters
proenvironmental tendencies (e.g., Berenguer, 2007, 2010; Tam, 2013). Building on the present
work we provide evidence that feelings for the suffering of humans (i.e., compassion) also
promotes proenvironmental tendencies. Thus, speakers (e.g., in front of the United Nations) or
climate change campaigns (e.g., Greenpeace) that aim to mobilize people to protect nature may
also include suffering humans in their demonstrations to elicit compassion which in turn may
mobilize people to protect nature.
Furthermore, the majority of people are likely aware that damaging the environment is bad
and acting proenvironmentally is desirable (Gifford, 2014). However, irrespective of the
knowledge people possess, proenvironmental tendencies can still be strengthened. The present
contribution offers an affective perspective on how to strengthen proenvironmental tendencies. We
suggest that individuals’ proenvironmental motivation to protect nature can be increased by
inducing the emotion of compassion. That is to say, we suggest increasing moral behavior in the
domain of nature protection by activating the moral emotion of compassion.
To conclude, the present work has highlighted that other-oriented tendencies such as
compassion for others effectively strengthen tendencies related to the conservation of nature. As
such, the findings of the present work are important in the context of climate change because they
suggest that general other-oriented tendencies such as compassion can successfully be used to
promote proenvironmental behavior.
1 Of note, the LISS study also included two items related to proenvironmental tendencies. We did
not include the items of (a) whether individuals “performed voluntary work for an
organization for environmental protection, peace, or animal rights” because it was not
restricted to proenvironmental tendencies, (b) “I am involved with one or more nature or
environment organizations.” because prevalence was fairly low and therefore variance was
restricted (only 16.4% report that they are involved with one or more nature or environment
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... Could perspectivetaking thus be used as a complement to standard environmental policy instruments to address global environmental challenges like climate change? The literature has so far either investigated the effect on hypothetical or low-cost behaviors (e.g., Pahl and Bauer, 2013;Pfattheicher et al., 2016), while mitigating climate change requires actual and costly behavioral change. Studies employing such actual or costly behavioral measures have examined behavior only in the context of local environmental problems with identifiable cause-effect structures, such as water use along rivers (Czap et al., 2015;Ortiz-Riomalo et al., 2021). ...
... The reviewed psychological experiments report a positive effect by inducing perspective-taking via respective instructions (e.g., "try to feel what the other feels") vs. the instruction to stay neutral ("try to stay as neutral and objective as possible"). These studies report a positive effect on pro-environmental behavior after taking the perspective of other humans (Pahl and Bauer, 2013;Pfattheicher et al., 2016), animals (Shelton and Rogers, 1981;Schultz, 2000;Berenguer, 2007), or plants (Berenguer, 2007) negatively affected by environmental degradation. The only study that did not find an effect on pro-environmental decision-making is Berenguer (2010). ...
... All psychological studies mentioned above are lab studies with student samples and relatively low sample sizes. The dependent variables aimed at capturing pro-environmental behavior were generally proxies like intentions (e.g., Pfattheicher et al., 2016) or hypothetical decisions (e.g., Berenguer, 2007). In research, however, it is well established that a gap exists between hypothetical and actual behavior (e.g., Diekmann and Preisendörfer, 2003). ...
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Prior evidence suggests that perspective-taking may promote pro-environmental behavior, at least for low-cost behaviors or local environmental problems. Climate change, however, requires costly mitigation efforts and is a global problem. Thus, in this study, we examine whether perspective-taking in the context of climate change is effective in promoting mitigation behaviors, including actual and/or costly behaviors, the mechanisms through which perspective-taking works, and if the distance to the person adversely affected by climate change matters for the effect. We conducted an online experiment with a non-student sample from Germany (n = 557), utilizing a 2 × 2 factorial design, to investigate the impact of perspective-taking and distance on three outcome measures: a climate donation, signing a petition, and approval of mitigation policies. We find that perspective-taking does not promote these mitigation behaviors, yet it raises the degree perspective-takers value and-for close others-feel connected with the affected person. Exploratory analysis shows that dispositional perspective-taking and empathic concern are correlated with mitigation behaviors.
... Promoting green(er) consumption activities or green brand advocacy, for example, is a type of corrective action motivated by the belief that nature has been unfairly treated (Lin & Huang, 2012;Genoveva & Syahrivar, 2020;Huang & Guo, 2021;Syahrivar et al., 2022). A previous study by Pfattheicher et al. (2016) suggests that empathizing with nature (i.e. to feel its suffering) inspires nature-protective actions. Following the Simulation Theory (Shanton & Goldman, 2010), we argue that when environmental activities believe that Mother Nature is being treated unjustly or is in danger, this inspires them to go green and support green brands as a way of acting in Mother Nature's best interests. ...
... Consequently, advocating for products that environmental activists believe can mitigate the adverse impacts of human activities on the environment becomes imperative. Our research builds upon prior studies, such as those by Parris et al. (2014) and Pfattheicher et al. (2016), which highlights how empathy for the plight of the environment propels pro-environmental behaviors (e.g., recycling, reusing, and donations for environmental causes). Nonetheless, in contrast to the previous studies, our research centers on green brand advocacy as a specific manifestation of pro-environmental behavior. ...
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Green brand advocacy, a unique phenomenon wherein regular customers champion environmentally conscious businesses, constitutes a vital extension of pro-environmental goals. This research extends prior research in green marketing by investigating the interplay between environmental activists and brands. Specifically, this research delves into the influence of attributing human-like qualities to nature and specific emotions evoked by nature on green brand advocacy in the scope of environmental activism. The research adopts the Simulation Theory to frame five pivotal concepts: nature anthropomorphism, ecological injustice, nature love, green trust, and green brand advocacy. Employing purposive sampling, this research gathered data from 303 environmental activists in Indonesia. A two-step analysis, utilizing the Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) via SPSS and AMOS software, was conducted to interpret the data. This research yields several theoretical contributions: firstly, nature anthropomorphism indirectly affects green brand advocacy through its positive relationship with ecological injustice and nature love. Secondly, this research uncovers that green trust negatively moderates the relationship between ecological injustice and green brand advocacy, emphasizing the need to effectively manage green trust to foster pro-environmental behaviors. The findings also carry noteworthy managerial implications: Businesses targeting environmental activists should customize their marketing content to align with activists’ anthropomorphic perspective of nature. However, businesses must also consider the potential adverse effects of green trust in their green marketing campaigns. Therefore, a balanced approach is advised, focusing on cultivating customer trust while promoting eco-friendly products. Overall, this research sheds light on the determinants influencing green brand advocacy in the context of environmental activism.
... In this direction, researchers over the years suggest mindfulness (defined as, enhanced attention to and awareness of current experience or present reality, Brown and Ryan, 2003, p. 822) as a mechanism that can help people decisively reorient towards sustainable behaviours (Sawyer et al., 2022;Shahbaz and Parker, 2022). Recent research shows that mindfulness can encourage changing consumption behaviours, such as disruption of routines (Bahl et al., 2016;Gupta et al., 2023); congruence of attitudes and behaviours gap (Ericson et al., 2014); and contribute to greater fundamental and socially leaning standards of conduct (Pfattheicher et al., 2016). Therefore, it is assumed that mindfulness might play a significant role in motivating people to create consciousness towards sustainability. ...
... Besides that, Fischer et al. (2017) identified at least three other mechanisms of trait mindfulness for sustainable consumption: congruence of attitude and behavior, non-material values and wellbeing, and prosocial behavior. However, in addition to its qualities of awareness, the gentle emotional quality of mindfulness (Kabat-Zinn, 2003) that can be experienced through exercises of the constructive family such as LKM, can also be seen in relation to sustainable consumption as it fosters pro-environmental tendencies (Pfattheicher et al., 2016) and sustainable decision making (Engel et al., 2020). As mentioned above, the practice of LKM strengthens prosociality (Böckler et al., 2018) and increases feelings of social connection (Hutcherson et al., 2008). ...
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Objectives The main goal of our intervention study was to investigate whether two conceptually different mindfulness interventions positively impacted the explicit and implicit affective evaluations of vegetarian foods. We included possible mediating variables (e.g., wellbeing) and related our results to the stage model of self-regulated behavioral change (SSBC).Methods We implemented a compassion and caring-based mental training (N = 31) and an adapted MBSR course (N = 34) as mindfulness interventions, and a stress-reduction course (N = 26) as the active control group. The curriculums consisted of 12 weekly group sessions á 75 min. All participants were tested pre- and post-intervention and 3 months after the last intervention session, answered questionnaires (mindfulness, compassion, wellbeing, items of the SSBC) and completed an explicit affective evaluation task and an affective priming task.ResultsThere was an improvement in the explicit attitudes toward vegetarian foods regardless of the intervention group. In the SSBC, we found a link between the explicit attitudes toward vegetarian foods and the indicated stage in the model. Multiple regression analysis revealed social and personal norms and a vegetarian/vegan diet as the only significant predictors for goal intention in the SSBC.Conclusion The results of our study suggest that both conceptually different mindfulness interventions, as well as a stress-reduction program, have a positive impact on explicit affective attitudes toward vegetarian foods. We highlight the meaning of inner dimensions and transformation for change processes for a more sustainable diet and the role of social and personal norms.
... Specifically, increased mindfulness leads to higher empathic concern (Donald et al., 2019;Berry et al., 2020). Empathic concern (or compassion) can be defined as the response to the suffering of others (Pfattheicher et al., 2016). Mindfulness interventions typically help to disengage and decouple from mental content through non-judgmental acceptance (Schindler and Friese, 2022). ...
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Digital mindfulness-based interventions (d-MBIs) have garnered significant research interest in recent years due to their psychological benefits. However, little is known about their impact on prosocial behaviors. This study investigates how d-MBIs impact prosocial behaviors where time spent is money, with Chinese adolescents as the subjects, through an online charity task ( ). 119 students from a high school in China, who were inexperienced with mindfulness meditation, participated in this randomized controlled trial. The d-MBI group ( N = 39) received online MBI guidance, while the face-to-face mindfulness-based intervention (f-MBI, N = 43) group underwent mindfulness intervention under personal tutors. The active control group ( N = 37) completed a crossword task. Data analysis first involved repeated measures variance analysis, including pre-and post-intervention assessments. Subsequently, a two-way variance analysis was performed, with gender (female and male) and group (d-MBI, f-MBI, active control) as independent variables and the number of grains as dependent variables for the three groups of participants. Results showed that d-MBIs effectively improved empathy and compassion in Chinese adolescents, leading to increased rice donations to the United Nations World Food Program. These results underscore the positive effect of d-MBIs on prosociality and suggest their applicability in beneficial real-world situations involving prosocial behaviors, extending beyond previous research primarily conducted in artificial and hypothetical scenarios.
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Purpose The theory of planned behaviour (TPB) and its extensions are often used to explain intentions to perform sustainable behaviours. Emotions can provide the impetus for action and should be considered in high-involvement situations, such as sustainable food purchase decisions. Therefore, the aim of this research work was to investigate whether the addition of different types of emotions (self-related, social and pro-active) to the TPB main constructs – attitude (ATT), subjective norm (SN) and perceived behavioural control (PBC) – improves the explanation of intention to make two sustainable food purchase choices: purchase Fairtrade (FT) products and purchase through solidarity purchasing groups (SPGs). Design/methodology/approach The present investigation was conducted by two studies using online questionnaires and focussing on purchasing FT food products (Study 1) and purchasing food through SPGs (Study 2). Stepwise regression models were run to explain the intention to purchase FT products (Study 1; N = 240) and the intention to purchase through SPGs (Study 2; N = 209). Findings Results show that emotions increase the predictive validity of the TPB model. The study also highlights the importance to distinguish between different types of emotions. Amongst those considered in both studies, only pro-active emotions play a significant role in predicting food purchasing intention. Results encourage further investigation of the role of emotions in TPB-based models for predicting sustainable food purchase choices. Research limitations/implications The measurement of the three classical antecedents of the TPB model (ATT, SNs and PBC) performed by single items can be considered the main limitation of this work. In future research, instruments made up of more items measuring these three theoretical dimensions should be used. In addition, it would be important to conduct an analysis of the beliefs that determine ATTs, norms and perceived control. Originality/value Different from previous studies that considered emotions in extension of the TPB model to explain sustainable behaviours, the present work separately analysed the role of three different kinds of emotions (self-related, social and pro-active) in explaining sustainable food behaviours.
Strong sustainability argues that substitutions of human and reproducible capitals for natural capital are very limited; hence, upholding strong sustainability principles in ecological and climate policies is necessary to tackle existing global ecological crisis. Implementing these principles requires the accumulation of altruistic capital which includes altruistic preferences and behaviors in individuals and organizations. In this article, we present a narrative arguing that cultivating loving-kindness and compassion (LK&C) in individuals is key to the accumulation of altruistic capital. More importantly, we provide several logical arguments to support two hypotheses: first, it is possible for individuals to develop LK&C; and second, LK&C in individuals can be cultivated limitlessly. Our analysis is based on the classical cognitive framework of Buddhism through the lenses of Middle Way Consequence philosophy.
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This review organizes a variety of phenomena related to emotional self-report. In doing so, the authors offer an accessibility model that specifies the types of factors that contribute to emotional self-reports under different reporting conditions. One important distinction is between emotion, which is episodic, experiential, and contextual, and beliefs about emotion, which are semantic, conceptual, and decontextualized. This distinction is important in understanding the discrepancies that often occur when people are asked to report on feelings they are currently experiencing versus those that they are not currently experiencing. The accessibility model provides an organizing framework for understanding self-reports of emotion and suggests some new directions for research.
Assessed sympathy and personal distress with facial and physiological indexes (heart rate) as well as self-report indexes and examined the relations of these various indexes to prosocial behavior for children and adults in an easy escape condition. Heart rate deceleration during exposure to the needy others was associated with increased willingness to help. In addition, adults' reports of sympathy, as well as facial sadness and concerned attention, were positively related to their intention to assist. For children, there was some indication that report of positive affect and facial distress were negatively related to prosocial intentions and behavior, whereas facial concern was positively related to the indexes of prosocial behavior. These findings are interpreted as providing additional, convergent support for the notion that sympathy and personal distress are differentially related to prosocial behavior. Over the years, numerous philosophers (e.g., Blum, 1980) and psychologists (e.g., Barnett, 1987; Feshbach, 1978; Hoffman, 1984; Staub, 1978) have argued that empathy and sympathy, denned primarily in affective terms, are important motivators of altruistic behavior. In general, it has been asserted that people who experience emotional reactions consistent with the state of another and who feel other-oriented concern for the other are relatively likely to be motivated to alleviate the other's need or distress.
This book is the third of a three-volume set on the innate mind. It provides an assessment of nativist thought and definitive reference point for future inquiry. Nativists have long been interested in a variety of foundational topics relating to the study of cognitive development and the historical opposition between nativism and empiricism. Among the issues here are questions about what it is for something to be innate in the first place; how innateness is related to such things as heritability, genetic information, and theories of cognitive development; the status of arguments both for and against nativism; and how best to understand the role of genes in development and inheritance. These issues are all explored in one way or another in this book. But the book also looks to the future. Alongside state-of-the-art discussions of such established nativist concerns as language, number, spatial cognition, and social cognition, this book examines nativist work in a variety of areas where detailed nativist exploration is relatively new, including cultural learning, creativity, economic choice, culture, and morality. The expansion of nativist theorizing into all these new areas shows both the power and the promise of nativist approaches, and points the way to the future.
This book takes a hard-science look at the possibility that we humans have the capacity to care for others for their sakes (altruism) rather than simply for our own (egoism). The look is based not on armchair speculation, dramatic cases, or after-the-fact interviews, but on an extensive series of theory-testing laboratory experiments conducted over the past 35 years. Part I details the theory of altruistic motivation that has been the focus of this experimental research. The theory centers on the empathy-altruism hypothesis, which claims that other-oriented feelings of sympathy and compassion for a person in need (empathic concern) produce motivation with the ultimate goal of having that need removed. Antecedents and consequences of empathy-induced altruistic motivation are specified, making the theory empirically testable. Part II offers a comprehensive summary of the research designed to test the empathy-altruism hypothesis, giving particular attention to recent challenges. Overall, the research provides remarkably strong and consistent support for this hypothesis, forcing a tentative conclusion that empathy-induced altruism is within the human repertoire. Part III considers the theoretical and practical implications of this conclusion, suggesting that empathy-induced altruism is a far more pervasive and powerful force in human affairs than has been recognized. Failure to appreciate its importance has handicapped attempts to understand why we humans act as we do and wherein our happiness lies. This failure has also handicapped efforts to promote better interpersonal relations and create a more caring, humane society.
Proposed that a distinction be made between 2 emotional responses to seeing another person suffer--personal distress and empathy--and that these 2 emotions lead to 2 different kinds of motivation to help: Personal distress leads to egoistic motivation; empathy, to altruistic motivation. These distinctions were tested in 3 studies, each using 10 male and 10 female undergraduates. Across the 3 studies, factor analysis of Ss' self-reported emotional response indicated that feelings of personal distress and empathy, although positively correlated, were experienced as qualitatively distinct. The pattern of helping in Studies 1 and 2 indicated that a predominance of personal distress led to egoistic motivation, whereas a predominance of empathy led to altruistic motivation. In Study 3, the cost of helping was made especially high. Results suggest an important qualification on the link between empathic emotion and altruistic motivation: Ss reporting a predominance of empathy displayed an egoistic pattern of helping. Apparently, making helping costly evoked self-concern, which overrode any altruistic impulse produced by feeling empathy. (12 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).