Going Green to be Seen: Status, Reputation, and Conspicuous Conservation

Abstract (via Vladas Griskevicius, Joshua M. Tybur, Bram Van den Bergh)

Why do people purchase proenvironmental “green” products? We argue that buying such products can be construed as altruistic, since green products often cost more and are of lower quality than their conventional counterparts, but green goods benefit the environment for everyone. Because biologists have observed that altruism might function as a “costly signal” associated with status, we examined in 3 experiments how status motives influenced desire for green products. Activating status motives led people to choose green products over more luxurious nongreen products. Supporting the notion that altruism signals one’s willingness and ability to incur costs for others’ benefit, status motives increased desire for green products when shopping in public (but not private) and when green products cost more (but not less) than nongreen products. Findings suggest that status competition can be used to promote proenvironmental behavior.

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