Fast Forward: Influencing the future in virtual reality increases real-life pro-environmental behaviour

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To reach necessary greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions targets, behavioural change is necessary at the consumer level. Nevertheless, behavioural interventions have only a limited impact on habitual behaviours such as beef consumption, which significantly contributes to the GHGs released. Immersive virtual reality (VR) in the metaverse can transform the current information-based environmental communication into more experience-based communication. To study how such a shift might change the environmental communication effectiveness, we randomly assigned N = 168 participants to a VR experience (experiencing and influencing future climate change scenarios based on food choices) or a VR information condition (receiving the same information from a virtual human). After the VR intervention, participants chose in real life between three meal options: beef Bolognese, 50% reduced Bolognese, and vegetarian Bolognese. To test the effectiveness of nudging in form of labelling on promoting plant-based diets, we randomly labelled the vegetarian dish with explicit or indulgent labels. The preference for a vegetarian meal did not differ across the labelling conditions. The VR experience led to higher intentions to reduce meat consumption and more pro-environmental behaviour in VR and real life as compared to the information condition. Mediation analyses confirm that experiential VR environmental communication can increase people’s efficacy beliefs, which increase their intentions and, consequently, lead to a reduction in beef consumption. Implications for future environmental communication are outlined.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherResearch Square-Preprint
Number of pages28
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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