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Language and pro-environmental behavior
Last registered on May 05, 2021

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Language and pro-environmental behavior
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0007636
Initial registration date
May 05, 2021
Last updated
May 05, 2021 11:24 AM EDT
Location(s)

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Primary Investigator
Affiliation
University of Bern
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
University of Bern
PI Affiliation
University of Bern
Additional Trial Information
Status
In development
Start date
2021-01-15
End date
2022-08-31
Secondary IDs
Abstract
Languages with a strong future-time reference (FTR) require speakers to grammatically mark future events (e.g. in English with “will” or “going to”), while others with a weak FTR do not (e.g. German). Previous research suggests that strong FTR languages make the future feel more distant than the present, implying that more short-term-oriented behavior occurs in areas such as saving and health. The aim of this research project is to examine the effect of the linguistic structure on individual pro-environmental behavior (PEB). In a between-subject online experiment, we will randomize the instructional language of the incentivized, environmental decision task among bilingual people who are fluent in the strong FTR language English and the weak FTR language German. We will elicit subjects’ pro-environmental behavior using a new incentivized decision task. This approach allows us to investigate whether there is a causal effect of a language’s FTR on individual PEB.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Essl, Andrea, Manuel Suter and Frauke von Bieberstein. 2021. "Language and pro-environmental behavior." AEA RCT Registry. May 05. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.7636-1.0.
Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
In a between-subject design, we will randomize the instructional language of the incentivized, environmental decision task among bilingual people who are fluent in the strong FTR language English and the weak FTR language German. In the strong FTR treatment, the environmental decision task will be described in English, using “will” to mark future events and to describe the impact of decisions on the environment. In the weak FTR treatment, subjects will receive a German description of the environmental decision task and no future time references will be used, i.e., all future events will be described in the present tense.
Intervention Start Date
2021-05-10
Intervention End Date
2021-06-15
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Amount of money invested in the environmental project; Pro-environmental behavioral intentions using a self-report Likert-type scale.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
In a between-subject online experiment, we will randomize the instructional language of the incentivized, environmental decision task among bilingual people who are fluent in the strong FTR language English and the weak FTR language German. We will elicit subjects’ pro-environmental behavior using a new incentivized decision task in which participants can decide between keeping money or investing money to an environmental project. Thus, this task consists of a decision tradeoff between own financial and environmental rewards. In the strong FTR treatment, the environmental decision task will be described in English, using “will” to mark future events and to describe the impact of decisions on the environment. In the weak FTR treatment, subjects will receive a German description of the environmental decision task and no future time references will be used. After the incentivized decision task, participants will complete a series of self-report scales on pro-environmental intentions, beliefs in climate change, general environmental views and answer demographic questions. In addition, all participants will be asked to take a language proficiency test for English and German.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
computer (online experiment)
Randomization Unit
individual
Was the treatment clustered?
No
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
The number of participants planned for the experiment is 824 people completing the study. We advertise for a minimum of 900 participants to take into account individuals excluded due to the restrictions below.

We will exclude subjects that:
- do not complete the Prolific task within 60 minutes of starting;
- exit and then re-enter the task as a new subject (as these individuals might see multiple treatments);
- are not approved for any other reason (e.g. not having a valid Prolific ID);
- do not pass the language proficiency tests
- failed crucial attention checks
- did not answer the control question correctly

In addition, and in line with previous research, we will analyze the data once with those who do not believe in climate change and once without them. The same approach is followed for those who do not believe in the positive impact of planting trees as climate change mitigation measure.
Sample size: planned number of observations
The number of participants planned for the experiment is 824 people completing the study. We advertise for a minimum of 900 participants to take into account individuals excluded due to the restrictions above
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
About 450 participants per treatment (about 412 participants per treatment after excluding participants as described above)
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
Based on a two-sided Wilcoxon-Mann-Whitney test, an error probability of 0.05, and a power of 0.80, we require about 412 participants per treatment to detect an effect of Cohen’s d of 0.2.
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
Ethics Committee of the Faculty of Business Administration, Economics and Social Sciences of the University of Bern
IRB Approval Date
2021-05-04
IRB Approval Number
132021