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The Culture of Green: The Role of Cultural Worldviews, Psychological Connectedness, Time Discounting, and Social Norms in Environmental Decisions

Yoko Iwaki, 2011
Faculty Advisor: Elke Weber
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In this dissertation, I examine cultural differences in perceptions of time looking at intertemporal decisions, social norms, policy preferences, and behaviors in the environmental domain. Looking closely at the environmental domain allows for a unique opportunity to examine whether or not cultural worldviews or social norms are motivating environmental behaviors (e.g. energy conservation). It is also possible to test whether the uncertain nature of climate change and its impacts over time results in different temporal discounting rates compared to other intertemporal choice domains (e.g. financial gains or financial losses). I draw upon theories of the self to argue that culture affects intertemporal decisions. I describe research supporting culture's effect on how individuals evaluate gains and losses, or benefits and risks, over different temporal horizons. I test whether culture affects temporal orientations, such that cultures that encourage holistic thinking are more likely to view the self and environment as continuous over long time horizons, while those cultures that encourage focused thinking are less likely to see such continuity over time. I next draw on theoretical and empirical evidence from cross-cultural psychology to argue that these country differences in temporal orientations have an effect on intertemporal decisions, examining in particular decisions about environmental policy and energy conservation behaviors. In Study 1, I compare Anglo-Saxon countries with Latin-American countries to look at the role that cultural worldviews (i.e. egalitarian, individualistic, hierarchic, and fatalistic) play in influencing environmental policy preferences and pro-environmental behavioral intentions. In Study 2, I test whether different construals of the self (either independent or interdependent) have an influence, above and beyond worldview effects, on environmental decisions. Finally, in Study 3, I compare Americans and Japanese to look at the effect of psychological connectedness above and beyond its effect on discounting. I also test whether there is cross-cultural variation in expectations in the types of green behaviors (e.g. easy versus hard) to engage in. With the three studies that I summarize in the chapters that ensue, I hope to identify some of the processes by which culture influences environmental decisions.


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