No Gain, No Change?


No Gain, No Change?


Bedersdorfer, J., Berg, A., Hein, J., Veigel, S.


Since environmental issues and ways to behave more pro-environmentally friendly are communicated ever more frequently, the importance of the question of how to design messages and options to create behavior change rises. For example, there are mixed findings as to whether a gain-framing or a loss-framing of messages results in more behavior change. Studies have shown, that for a highly salient problem, gain-framed messages are more effective. Further, in order to avoid reactance, messages should give people the feeling of freedom of choice in how to change behavior. The present study examines the effectiveness of both approaches in a 2 (gain- vs. loss-framing) x 3 (low vs. medium vs. high freedom of choice) design, investigating the change of environmentally relevant behaviors in a time span of four weeks and the role of reactance as a possible mediator between the framing condition (respectively the freedom of choice condition) and the change in pro-environmental behavior. Results suggest that gain-framing leads to a greater change towards pro-environmental behavior than loss-framing. Freedom of choice seems to have different effects depending on the framing condition, but anyway a low freedom of choice showed the best results in both conditions. No evidence is found for reactance as a mediator. The study provides initial evidence, that gain-framed messages should be preferred when it comes to appealing to people to behave more environmentally friendly.


Choices, Environment, Framing