Consumers in today's world are confronted with the alarming consequences of unsustainable behavior such as pollution and resource degradation. In addition, they are facing increases in uncertainty due to external events such as economic crises and terror attacks. These two problems are central to consumers’ lives, occur on a global scale, and have significant impact on the world's political, economic, environmental, and social landscapes. Contributing to research on persuasion and pro-social behavior, we show in four studies, conducted online, in the lab, and in the field, that these two problems are interconnected. Studies 1 and 2 demonstrate that uncertainty leads to lower levels of sustainable behavior in comparison to certainty. Study 2 reveals in addition that this is due to the display of higher levels of temporal discounting under uncertainty (i.e., adopting a more immediate orientation). Finally, Studies 3 and 4 show that emphasizing the immediate benefits of sustainability during uncertainty reverses the negative effect and leads consumers to act more sustainably. Overall, these findings provide valuable implications for policy makers and responsible marketers.
- Temporal discounting