Acting green elicits a literal warm glow

Danny Taufik*, Jan Willem Bolderdijk, Linda Steg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

109 Citations (Scopus)
567 Downloads (Pure)


Environmental policies are often based on the assumption that people only act environmentally friendly if some extrinsic reward is implicated, usually money(1,2). We argue that people might also be motivated by intrinsic rewards: doing the right thing (such as acting environmentally friendly) elicits psychological rewards in the form of positive feelings, a phenomenon known as warm glow(3,4). Given the fact that people's psychological state may affect their thermal state(5,6), we expected that this warm glow could express itself quite literally: people who act environmentally friendly may perceive the temperature to be higher. In two studies, we found that people who learned they acted environmentally friendly perceived a higher temperature than people who learned they acted environmentally unfriendly. The underlying psychological mechanism pertains to the self-concept: learning you acted environmentally friendly signals to yourself that you are a good person. Together, our studies show that acting environmentally friendly can be psychologically rewarding, suggesting that appealing to intrinsic rewards can be an alternative way to encourage pro-environmental actions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-40
Number of pages4
JournalNature climate change
Issue number1
Early online date24-Nov-2014
Publication statusPublished - Jan-2015


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