I Can Feel Your Pain: Investigating the Role of Empathy and Guilt on Sustainable Behavioral Intentions to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle Plastic Bags among College Students | Land Portal

Resource information

Date of publication: 
January 2023
Resource Language: 
ISBN / Resource ID: 
LP-midp002195
Copyright details: 
© 2023 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article

Plastic bag pollution in the marine environment is an urgent issue that has negatively impacted the sustainability of marine biodiversity. Studying effective ways to design advocacy messages that can promote individuals’ intentions to reduce, reuse, and recycle plastic bags in order to mitigate plastic bag pollution in the effort to help restore marine biodiversity is necessary. Utilizing emotional appeal messages, such as messages that are designed to elicit audiences’ feelings of empathy, can promote a variety of pro-environmental behaviors. To investigate an effective way to generate empathy, this online experiment study conducted with 257 college students in the U.S. examined whether messages that encourage perspective-taking can successfully elicit empathy among participants. Additionally, the study explored whether messages that encourage perspective-taking can promote viewers’ behavioral intentions to engage in the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, and recycle plastic bags) via the mediating roles of empathy and guilt. Results indicated that perspective-taking messages can increase viewers’ empathy, which was positively associated with feelings of guilt, which in turn was positively associated with viewers’ 3Rs behavioral intentions. The study also investigated the influence of self-efficacy on guilt as well as the interaction of self-efficacy and perspective-taking on guilt. Results suggested that self-efficacy did not have an effect on guilt, and the effects of self-efficacy and perspective-taking on guilt were independent of each other. These findings demonstrate that messages encouraging perspective-taking can positively affect individuals’ 3Rs behavioral intentions to reduce plastic waste as a means to restore marine biodiversity.

Authors and Publishers

Author(s), editor(s), contributor(s): 

Yan, ZhuxuanCortese, Juliann

Corporate Author(s): 
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Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050; CODEN: SUSTDE) is an international, cross-disciplinary, scholarly and open access journal of environmental, cultural, economic, and social sustainability of human beings. Sustainabilityprovides an advanced forum for studies related to sustainability and sustainable development, and is published monthly online by MDPI. 

Sustainability is an Open Access journal.

    Publisher(s): 

    MDPI AG, a publisher of open-access scientific journals, was spun off from the Molecular Diversity Preservation International organization. It was formally registered by Shu-Kun Lin and Dietrich Rordorf in May 2010 in Basel, Switzerland, and maintains editorial offices in China, Spain and Serbia. MDPI relies primarily on article processing charges to cover the costs of editorial quality control and production of articles. Over 280 universities and institutes have joined the MDPI Institutional Open Access Program; authors from these organizations pay reduced article processing charges.

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    MDPI AG, a publisher of open-access scientific journals, was spun off from the Molecular Diversity Preservation International organization. It was formally registered by Shu-Kun Lin and Dietrich Rordorf in May 2010 in Basel, Switzerland, and maintains editorial offices in China, Spain and Serbia. MDPI relies primarily on article processing charges to cover the costs of editorial quality control and production of articles. Over 280 universities and institutes have joined the MDPI Institutional Open Access Program; authors from these organizations pay reduced article processing charges.