Intrinsically Motivating Social Influence: When social influence strengthens intrinsic motivation and sustainable energy behaviour

Marko Milovanovic

Research output: ThesisThesis fully internal (DIV)

225 Downloads (Pure)


Realising the energy transition from fossil fuels to renewables is a challenge, as it requires both technological innovation and a lasting behavioural change—the latter topic being the focus of this dissertation. A novel approach to promote sustainable energy behaviour are local energy initiatives, in which people strive to locally produce and consume solar power. Such initiatives inspire behavioural change through social influence—when people influence each other to adopt new norms and behaviours.

Social influence is usually thought of as being extrinsically motivating—behaviour performed for the sake of attaining others’ approval—whereas intrinsically motivated behaviour is performed for its own sake. A behavioural change based on extrinsic motivation is temporary, requiring constant reinforcement to keep going. This dissertation focuses on this issue and asks: can social influence produce a self-sustained behavioural change based on intrinsic motivation?

We discovered that the key difference between social influence producing intrinsic or extrinsic motivation is the underlying group context. As long as people positively identify with a group, social influence from that group can have positive effects on intrinsic motivation and inspire a lasting behavioural change. While within groups that people do not identify with, social influence is more likely to produce an extrinsic motivation and a temporary behavioural change. We also found that certain social influence strategies, such as setting group goals and making their importance explicit, can have stronger positive effects on intrinsic motivation and a lasting behavioural change, particularly for people who strongly identify with their group.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Groningen
  • Steg, Linda, Supervisor
  • Spears, Russell, Supervisor
Award date21-Sep-2020
Place of Publication[Groningen]
Print ISBNs978-94-034-2755-3
Electronic ISBNs978-94-034-2756-0
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Cite this