Personal experience with Covid-19 is associated with increased environmental concern and pro-environmental behavioral intentions

Deborah Shulman, Eran Halperin, Michal Reifen-Tagar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Climate change attributable to human activities has created a global threat to humanity and the natural world. However, there is a tendency for people to view climate change as a threat primarily affecting those in far-away places and there is reluctance to engage in pro-environmental action, which is often costly. It is therefore crucial to understand the factors that shape willingness to engage in pro-environmental behavior. Existing research suggests that personal experience with the consequences of climate change may increase pro-environmental action, however it is unknown whether personal experiences in other non-environmental domains may have similar effects. The circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic allowed us to conduct a quasi-natural experiment to examine the effects of personal experience with a different global threat, namely Covid-19, on environmental responses. Across two studies conducted among UK and US participants, we found that personal experience of Covid-19 was associated with pro-environmental behavioral intentions, and that this relationship was mediated by increased environmental concern. We found that personal experience with Covid-19 was associated with stronger self-transcendence values of universalism and benevolence, which played a further mediating role between personal experience with the virus and environmental concern. These findings suggest that personal experience with at least some global threats, even when not directly related to climate change, may increase concern for distant others and also sensitize people to environmental issues and motivate pro-environmental action.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number100031
JournalCurrent Research in Ecological and Social Psychology
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • COVID-19
  • Climate Change
  • Environmental concern
  • Personal experience
  • Proenvironmental behavioural intentions
  • Self-transcendence values

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Social Psychology
  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)


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