Life goals predict environmental behavior: Cross-cultural and longitudinal evidence

Wenceslao Unanue, Vivian L. Vignoles, Helga Dittmar, Maarten Vansteenkiste

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Prioritizing intrinsic life goals (self-development, community involvement, relationships) rather than extrinsic ones (money, fame, image) is said to foster not only personal wellbeing, but also pro-social behavior such as protecting the environment. We explored concurrent and prospective links between intrinsic (versus extrinsic) life goals and self-reported environmentally responsible behavior, using correlational and longitudinal data from adult participants in a mass consumer society (UK) and a fast developing nation (Chile). In both countries, the importance of intrinsic (versus extrinsic) life goals was associated cross-sectionally with environmentally responsible behavior, even after controlling for possible effects of environmental worldviews and environmental identification. In longitudinal analyses, life goals prospectively predicted environmentally responsible behavior over a two-year period, whereas, rather unexpectedly, environmental worldviews and environmental identification did not. We conclude that focusing on intrinsic, rather than extrinsic, life goals may be important not just for individuals' well-being, but also for the well-being of future generations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10-22
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Environmental Psychology
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2016


  • Environmental behavior
  • Environmental identification
  • Environmental worldviews
  • Extrinsic/intrinsic life goals
  • Longitudinal research


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