Activating values for encouraging pro-environmental behavior: the role of religious fundamentalism and willingness to sacrifice

  • Min Gon Chung
  • Hana Kang
  • Thomas DietzEmail author
  • Patricia Jaimes
  • Jianguo Liu
Original Article


A number of theories and hypotheses attempt to understand what influences pro-environmental behaviors. In social psychology, the values–beliefs–norms (VBN) theory is one of the most common approaches used to explain pro-environmental behaviors. But different sets of concepts have often been used in work based on large public opinion surveys. Here, we add to the VBN theory several variables—Christian religious fundamentalism, willingness to sacrifice, trust in scientists, biotechnology beliefs—that have been used in the public opinion literature in a step toward a more integrative theory. A sample of 518 U.S. adults completed an online questionnaire to provide data. Results confirm that, in the USA, biospheric altruism values had substantial indirect effects on pro-environmental behavior via willingness to sacrifice for biodiversity loss. But climate change beliefs and willingness to sacrifice for climate change did not exert direct or indirect effects on pro-environmental behavior. Interestingly, religious fundamentalism increased pro-environmental behavior net of other factors including political ideology, again acting primarily through biospheric altruism values. We hope that our findings encourage steps toward more integrated theory and the testing of more comprehensive models.


Pro-environmental behaviors Values–beliefs–norms theory Climate change Biotechnology Biodiversity loss 



We thank Christina Azodi for the use of the biotechnology belief items she developed.


Funding is provided by the National Science Foundation, NASA, Environmental Science and Policy Program at Michigan State University, Sustainable Michigan Endowment Project, and Michigan AgBioResearch.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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© AESS 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, Department of Fisheries and WildlifeMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  2. 2.Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Special Education, Department of Educational AdministrationMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  3. 3.Department of Sociology, Environmental Science and Policy Program, Center for Systems Integration and SustainabilityMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  4. 4.Geocognition Research Laboratory, Department of Earth and Environmental SciencesMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

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