Generalized trust narrows the gap between environmental concern and pro-environmental behavior: Multilevel evidence

Kim Pong Tam, Hoi Wing Chan

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

92 Citations (Scopus)


Research has established that people's environmental concern does not always translate into pro-environmental behavior. On the basis of the social dilemma perspective, the present article examines how this concern-behavior gap can be narrowed. We posit that individuals who are concerned about environmental problems feel reluctant to contribute because they fear being exploited by free riders. We further argue that generalized trust can temper this fear because it allows people to expect others to contribute. Accordingly, we hypothesize that the concern-behavior association is stronger among individuals and societies with higher levels of trust. Findings from multilevel analyses on two international survey datasets (World Values Survey and International Social Survey Programme) support our hypothesis. These findings not only elucidate the concern-behavior gap but also suggest how environmental campaigns can be improved. They also signify the need to explore cross-national variations in phenomena pertaining to environmental concern and behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)182-194
Number of pages13
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Cross-national variation
  • Environmental concern
  • Pro-environmental behavior
  • Social dilemma
  • Trust

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

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