How will I be remembered? Conserving the environment for the sake of one's legacy

Psychol Sci. 2015 Feb;26(2):231-6. doi: 10.1177/0956797614561266. Epub 2015 Jan 5.


Long time horizons and social distance are viewed as key psychological barriers to proenvironmental action, particularly regarding climate change. We suggest that these challenges can be turned into opportunities by making salient long-term goals and motives, thus shifting preferences between the present self and future others. We tested whether individuals' motivation to leave a positive legacy can be leveraged to increase engagement with climate change and other environmental problems. In a pilot study, we found that individual differences in legacy motivation were positively associated with proenvironmental behaviors and intentions. In a subsequent experiment, we demonstrated that priming legacy motives increased donations to an environmental charity, proenvironmental intentions, and climate-change beliefs. Domain-general legacy motives represent a previously understudied and powerful mechanism for promoting proenvironmental behavior.

Keywords: climate change; decision making; environmental effects; judgment; open data; open materials.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Climate Change
  • Conservation of Natural Resources*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pilot Projects
  • Social Behavior*