Bringing identity theory into environmental sociology

Sociological Theory 21 (4):398-423 (2003)
Abstract
In an effort to explain pro-environmental behavior, environmental sociologists often study environmental attitudes. While much of this work is atheoretical, the focus on attitudes suggests that researchers are implicitly drawing upon attitude theory in psychology. The present research brings sociological theory to environmental sociology by drawing on identity theory to understand environmentally responsive behavior. We develop an environment identity model of environmental behavior that includes not only the meanings of the environment identity, but also the prominence and salience of the environment identity and commitment to the environment identity. We examine the identity process as it relates to behavior, though not to the exclusion of examining the effects of environmental attitudes. The findings reveal that individual agency is important in influencing environmentally responsive behavior, but this agency is largely through identity processes, rather than attitude processes. This provides an important theoretical and empirical advance over earlier work in environmental sociology
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