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This field experiment investigated whether purposefully adopting a new pro-environmental behavior (e.g., unplugging appliances, reusing shopping bags) led to positive spillover by altering people’s subsequent pro-environmental behaviors and political attitudes. Participants (N = 125) recruited through community organizations were randomly assigned to either adopt a new pro-environmental behavior of their choice for three weeks, or were not invited to do so. Behavior adoption increased participants’ likelihood of contacting their Senator about climate change, but had little direct spillover effect on other individual pro-environmental behaviors, their likelihood of making household-wide changes, the political importance they placed on climate-related issues, or their support for emissions-reducing policies. Behavior adoption increased sense of environmental responsibility among some participants, leading to indirect positive effects on purchasing organic/local produce and policy support. Overall, observed positive spillover effects were limited and relatively small. There was little indication that behavior adoption led to any meaningful negative spillover effects.


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Lacasse, K. (2017). Can’t hurt, might help: Examining the spillover effects from purposefully adopting a new pro-environmental behavior. Environment and Behavior. doi: 10.1177/0013916517748164