Testing the influence of purity-based interventions on pro-environmental behavior

Sonya Sachdeva, Reihane Boghrati, Morteza Dehghani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Environmental issues are often discussed in purity-related terms. For instance, pollution, contamination, toxicity, and degradation are all concepts that can evoke notions of (im)purity in an environmental context. In this paper, we assess the efficacy of purity-based norms as drivers of environmentally sustainable behavior. First, using a social media-based environmental cleanup campaign as a test case, we find that purity-based norms increase participation in the campaign. We then replicate and extend these findings in three behavioral experiments, finding that purity-based interventions do increase environmental behavior (Study 1), but that these effects are strongest for people who are more deeply connected with an in-group (Studies 2 and 3). Using an integrative approach to combine computational linguistics with behavioral experiments, we find that purity-based norms can be powerful motivators of environmental behavior, particularly if they emphasize the relation to one's in-group.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1811
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Behavioral experiments
  • Computerized text analysis
  • Moral psychology
  • Pro-environmental behavior
  • Purity norms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science (miscellaneous)
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment


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