Positive and negative spillover of pro-environmental behavior: An integrative review and theoretical framework

Heather Barnes Truelove, Amanda R. Carrico, Elke U. Weber, Kaitlin Toner Raimi, Michael P. Vandenbergh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

470 Scopus citations


A recent surge of research has investigated the potential of pro-environmental behavior interventions to affect other pro-environmental behaviors not initially targeted by the intervention. The evidence evaluating these spillover effects has been mixed, with some studies finding evidence for positive spillover (i.e., one pro-environmental behavior increases the likelihood of performing additional pro-environmental behaviors) and others finding negative spillover (i.e., one pro-environmental behavior decreases the likelihood of additional pro-environmental behaviors). Different academic disciplines have investigated this question, employing different methodologies and arriving at divergent findings. This paper provides a unifying theoretical framework and uses the framework to review the existing research on pro-environmental behavior spillover. Our framework identifies different decision modes as competing mechanisms that drive adoption of initial pro-environmental behaviors, with different consequences for subsequent pro-environmental behaviors, leading to positive, negative, or no spillover. Attribution of the initial pro-environmental behavior to either an external motivator (e.g., a price signal) or internal motivator (e.g., self-identity) also matters. In addition, the characteristics of and similarity between initial and subsequent pro-environmental behaviors can be expected to moderate predicted spillover effects. We explore the implications of our model for policymakers and practitioners, and suggest key areas where future research on the topic would be most beneficial.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)127-138
Number of pages12
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


  • Behavioral spillover
  • Decision modes
  • Environmental identity
  • Moral licensing
  • Pro-environmental behavior
  • Rebound effects


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