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People with low concern for the environment read less well in the light of “eco-friendly” lamp


“The performance of individuals who have a high concern for the environment when proofreading was better when the individuals thought that they were working in the light of an ´eco-friendly´ desktop lamp. However, the performance of individuals who expressed low concern for the environment was weaker when working in the light of a lamp labelled ‘eco-friendly,’” says Andreas Haga, environmental researcher at the University of Gävle.

Andreas Haga

Our expectations rule everything

In a series of experiments, Andreas Haga has shown that our expectations of eco-friendly products determine our experience as well as our performance. He used two identical lamps, but labelled one of them “eco-friendly” and the other “conventional.”

Experiments showed that environmentally friendly individuals’ performance when proofreading was a great deal better when the individuals thought themselves to be working in the light of an “eco-friendly” desktop lamp. However, surprisingly enough, the effect was reversed as the performance of individuals who expressed low concern for the environment was much weaker when the lamp was labelled “eco-friendly.”

He got the same results when he tested colour-discrimination; the label on the lamp determined the outcome.

Applicable also when it comes to personality judgment

To determine if this effect could be generalised, Andreas also chose a task unrelated to the lamp itself, as there is a natural connection to a desk top lamp when it comes to colour discrimination and proofreading.

The task was to judge the personality of eight people, for instance to determine whether they were wasteful or economic, just by looking at a photograph of them.

“When judging people’s personality, individuals with high concern for the environment saw their personalities in a more favourable light when using a lamp labelled ‘eco-friendly,’ while the opposite effect occurred for people with low concern for the environment,” says Andreas Haga.

The importance of our conscience

Andreas claims that we all have a moral account which differs between people. If you care about the environment and are asked to assess an eco-friendly product, you may increase your motivation to perform better in order to be able to give the product a better assessment, all to ease your conscience.

“To achieve a better match between your attitude and this lamp, you may put more effort into succeeding to make it seem better, just because you want it to be.”

However, of you have low concern for the environment, you will no get a bad conscience if this lamp is not so good to use or if your performance weakens while using it.

“You don’t care and so your performance is better in the light of a conventional lamp than in that of an eco-friendly one.”

Moral arguments won’t work

Andreas says that his results in all studies are very robust and can be easily generalised. Our behaviour differs depending on our values and attitudes and they are strongly polarised.

Those incubated against environmental concern are very hard to get at. They must be helped into changing their behaviours for a better one without their noticing, while those with environmental concern do not need our efforts.

He doesn’t believe in trying to force people into changing their attitudes and values and sees it as a waste of time to try to convince someone who doesn’t want to be convinced.

It must be easy to do the right thing

What we should do, Andreas says, is to facilitate environmentally friendly behaviour. It should be easier to behave in the desirable way.

When it comes to cars, it must be easier and, above all, cheaper to be environmentally friendly to attract those who are not convinced.

And when it comes to waste sorting, we must succeed in making waste sorting easier than just throwing your waste in the bin. Then people will do it, because it is easier.

“If I don’t like environmentally friendly products and someone forces them on me, and then even forces me to use them to do something, then I might choose to behave in the opposite way.”

He tells us that when it comes to environmentally friendly products, we should consciously hold back a little to avoid stirring up aggression. Studies have shown that consumption will increase if information is more restrained and less pushy.

“We must avoid stepping on someone’s toes”, Andreas Haga concludes.



Andreas Haga defended his doctoral thesis Psychological consequences of moral labelling in the built environment” at the University of Gävle, 7 March 2018.

Maria Johansson, professor in applied psychology at Lund Univeristy, was the external examiner and Patrik Sörqvist, professor in applied psychology at the University of Gävle, was the supervisor..



For more information, please contact:
Andreas Haga, researcher in applied psychology at the University of Gävle
phone: 073-943 01 38
Email: andreas.haga@hig.se

Text: Douglas Öhrbom
Photo: Anna Sällberg

Published by: Zara Lindahl Page responsible: Anders Munck Updated: 2018-03-28
Högskolan i Gävle
Box 801 76 GÄVLE
026-64 85 00 (växel)