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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: August 2012

7 - Drivers of individual behavior

from III - Contributions of psychology


Chapter overview

Chapter 6 provided insight into how individuals perceive the environment. This chapter discusses the questions: what drives individual behavior and what are the psychological foundations of environmental awareness? The idea is to gain insight into the rationale of the individual when interacting with the material and the social environment by using the concept of drivers. A driver is a psychological variable or construct that elicits or steers the behavior and actions of an individual. The goal of this section is to introduce key drivers and other psychological concepts that allow for an explanation of environmental literacy and behavior. The concepts and models introduced serve to explain the notions of goal formation, strategy selection or evaluation, and action (see Figure 16.12*).

As a discipline, psychology can inform us about the drivers of individual behavior and action towards the environment. This chapter begins with a discussion of the psychological foundations of environmental decisions by reviewing theoretical foundations from psychology researchers. We also present a loose taxonomy, or rough order, that allows us to interrelate a large spectrum of drivers based on the degree to which they are rooted in basic psychological processes (such as preferences, drives, needs, and emotions) and shaped by experience (such as cognitions, motives, values, and norms). Finally, we discuss drivers shaped by experiences and behaviorally relevant higher order psychological processes: motivations, norms, and attitudes.

The chapter closes with a topology that relates the discussed key drivers according to two dimensions or scales: (1) the degree to which drivers are shaped by experience vs. psychological processes; and (2) the degree to which drivers are formed by physiological vs. cognitive processes. The latter physiological–cognitive dimension shows how the body–mind complementarity is relevant from a psychological perspective.

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