Many of us are very concerned about the environment and want to try to do the right things as we go about our daily lives. New research from the University of Gothenburg shows that we tend to overestimate just how much we are actually doing.
A study of over 4,000 people in United States, England, India, and Sweden revealed that most people are convinced that they act more environmentally friendly than the average person. Their actions might include buying eco-labelled products, saving household energy, recycling, driving a hybrid or electric car, and reducing purchases of plastic bags. Participants in the survey rated themselves as more environmentally active than other people, including both unknown people as well as their own friends.
The results are in keeping with a general tendency people have to overestimate their own abilities. Studies over the years have shown that most people consider themselves, for example, to be more honest, more creative, and better drivers than others. This sort of over-optimism apparently also applies to environmentally friendly behaviors.
The data from the survey revealed that the participants were more likely to overestimate their engagement in activities they perform often and draw the faulty conclusion that the things they do often, they in fact do more often than others.
A consequence of thinking that you are more environmentally friendly than other people is that it can reduce the motivation to act environmentally friendly in the future. In fact, when we think we are more environmentally friendly than others, we actually end up becoming less environmentally friendly.
Logically speaking, the majority of people cannot be more environmentally friendly than the average person. We are not living in Lake Wobegone where all children are above average.
Photo, posted March 6, 2014, courtesy of Karlis Dambrans via Flickr.