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Regular version of the site

Article

Understanding the motivation of environmental activists: A comparison of Self-determination theory and Functional motives theory

Ecopsychology. 2016. Vol. 8. No. 4. P. 228-238.
Sheldon K. M., Wineland A., Venhoeven L., Osin E. N.

What keeps environmental activists motivated and committed to their activism, despite the frustrations and uncertain outcomes of their work? To answer this question we compared measures derived from Self-Determination theory (SDT) and Function Motives theory (FMT), hypothesizing that SDT’s internal motivation measures would best predict environmental commitment and the avoidance of emotional exhaustion. We studied U.S. Midwestern region activists (Study 1) and activists affiliated with the Peru and Paris climate change summits (Study 2), finding in both studies that the five SDT and the six FMT subscales could all be located on two factors interpretable in terms of SDT’s distinction between internal and external motivation, and that the 11 subscales could also be located on a single relative autonomy continuum. Simultaneous regressions revealed that SDT’s integrated motivation was the primary predictor of activist commitment and SDT’s intrinsic motivation was the primary predictor of non-burnout. These results offer insight into what motives should be encouraged and supported in environmental activists