Creating Self-Concordance through Activation of the Goal Hierarchy
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In recent years, environmental sustainability has become a prominent issue. Organizations have attempted to address this issue by utilizing a variety of intervention strategies. Although some interventions have provided promising results, some researchers have suggested that current intervention strategies are perhaps not as effective as originally thought and lack a theoretical framework as guidance (Unsworth, Dmitrieva, & Adriasola, 2013). Given this, the current research attempts to address this from the promising but understudied perspective of self-concordance as theorized in Unsworth et al.’s framework. More specifically, this research examined the possibility of creating self-concordance, a construct defined as an action or goal having value or interest (Sheldon & Elliot 1999), toward environmental sustainability by providing feedback that links recycling behavior to a higher order goal (health). Given the novel concept of building self-concordance in order to achieve long-term behavioral changes and in an attempt to address potential limitations in Study 1, a second study was conducted to target a different behavior. Study 2 focused on creating self-concordance toward physical activity. In these studies, participants in three conditions (identified, extrinsic, and both identified and extrinsic) were asked to record their recyclables (Study 1) or steps (Study 2) twice a week for two weeks. The identified group received feedback as it related to their health based on the amount of recyclables (Study 1) or steps (Study 2) reported. The extrinsic group received chances to win $200 for every recyclable (Study 1) or 1,000 steps (Study 2) reported. During the manipulation, it was hypothesized that the identified group would have higher self-concordance than the extrinsic group, but the extrinsic group would engage in the desired behavior more than the identified group. After the manipulation was removed, it was hypothesized that the identified group would continue to have higher self-concordance than the extrinsic group, and the identified group would engage in the desired behavior more than the extrinsic group. All participants were recruited via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. A total of 152 participants completed 5 or more surveys for Study 1 and 170 participants completed 5 or more surveys for Study 2. Repeated measures ANOVAs and one-way ANOVAs were used to test the hypotheses. Results from both studies failed to support the hypotheses. Instead, Study 1 found that participants exposed to both experimental conditions reported significantly higher self-concordance than those only exposed to the extrinsic condition. Study 1 also found that when controlling for baseline self-concordance, the identified condition reported higher self-concordance than the extrinsic condition after the manipulation had been removed. In addition, Study 2 found that physical activity was significantly higher at measurement occasion 4 when compared to measurement occasions 2 and 3. These findings indicate that further research on the utilization of self-concordance in behavioral interventions may be warranted.