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The roles of motivation and goals on sustainable behaviour in a resource dilemma: A self-determination theory perspective

Highlights•General environmental motivation predicts goal content, which predicts sustainable behaviour in a resource dilemma.•When sanctions are added to a resource dilemma, it can improve sustainable behaviour.•When sanctions are removed, it decreases sustainable behaviour.•Sanctions increased non-self-determined motivation and extrinsic goal pursuit.AbstractEnvironmental degradation and biodiversity loss are worldwide problems caused by human activities, which can often be classified as a resource dilemma. Across two studies, and using self-determination theory as a framework, we examine the relationships between motivation, goals, sanctioning systems and sustainable behaviour in a resource dilemma. The resource dilemma used was a 2-person partnered design where each participant was required to make decisions about recreational fishing harvests in a small, private lake with a simulated partner. Study 1 used mediational analysis to demonstrate that quality of motivation affects goal content, and goal content predicts sustainable behaviour. Study 2 introduced a centralized sanctioning system to the resource dilemma, and found that this type of sanctioning system increased sustainable behaviour in the resource dilemma when added, and decreased sustainable behaviour when removed, concomitantly affecting the quality of participant motivation and goal content. The results expand upon self-determination theory, and point to the importance of distinguishing motivation from goals, examining quality of motivation through degree of internalization, and how these constructs as well as sustainable behaviour can be affected by a centralized sanction system.


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