National Differences in Environmental Concern and Performance Are Predicted by Country Age

Hal E. Hershfield, H. Min Bang, Elke U. Weber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


There are obvious economic predictors of ability and willingness to invest in environmental sustainability. Yet, given that environmental decisions represent trade-offs between present sacrifices and uncertain future benefits, psychological factors may also play a role in country-level environmental behavior. Gott's principle suggests that citizens may use perceptions of their country's age to predict its future continuation, with longer pasts predicting longer futures. Using country- and individual-level analyses, we examined whether longer perceived pasts result in longer perceived futures, which in turn motivate concern for continued environmental quality. Study 1 found that older countries scored higher on an environmental performance index, even when the analysis controlled for country-level differences in gross domestic product and governance. Study 2 showed that when the United States was framed as an old country (vs. a young one), participants were willing to donate more money to an environmental organization. The findings suggest that framing a country as a long-standing entity may effectively prompt proenvironmental behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)152-160
Number of pages9
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology


  • decision making
  • environmental behavior
  • environmental performance
  • intergenerational connectedness
  • judgment


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