Marketing Faculty Publications and Presentations

Ritual and environmental ineffectiveness: How psychological ownership of community drives environmental behavior

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Psychological ownership has been linked to various environmental behaviors, but extant research has typically examined a specific environmental element (i.e., a lake or national park) instead of abstract entities as the target of this ownership. The current research investigates how psychological ownership of an abstract entity, namely one's community, impacts environmental attitudes and behaviors. Intrigued by previous research showing that consumer concern for the environment does not necessarily translate into pro-environmental action, we examine the connection between psychological ownership, environmental concern, and environmental behaviors. We propose and find that the perception of environmental ineffectiveness moderates how these variables relate to one another. Counterintuitively, higher levels of perceived environmental ineffectiveness (rather than effectiveness) strengthen the relationships between these variables. We draw on the theory of ritualistic behaviors to explain this phenomenon. Results from three studies using diverse respondents and data gathering approaches reveal a consistent pattern of relationships. Our research makes several important contributions. First, it identifies a quasi-endowment effect that extends from psychological ownership of community to environmental concern, which subsequently results in the protection of the environment through engagement in environmental behaviors. Second, this research extends the burgeoning psychological literature on rituals to the domain of environmental behaviors. Finally, using the conceptualization of environmental behavior as a ritual, this is the first study to illustrate how perceived consumer ineffectiveness moderates the effect of psychological ownership on environmental behaviors through environmental concern.


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Psychology & Marketing