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The influence of sacred beliefs in environmental risk perception and attitudes

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Environment and Behavior. 18 p.


Elements of the natural world, such as mountains, rivers, and forests, are often seen as sacred in many cultural traditions. Recent conservation movements have even begun to draw on spiritual and religious beliefs to promote issues of environmental sustainability. The straightforward assumption in these cases is that sacred beliefs (compared with secular ones) will hold greater sway in alerting people to various environmental perils. However, environmental risk perception is a complex process, and we find that, in some cases, viewing natural resources as sacred may lead to a diminished perception of environmental risks such as pollution. Across three studies, we show that sacred beliefs may inure participants to the harmful effects of pollution in the Ganges River. Implications of these sacred value–based risk perceptions for conservation movements are discussed.


culture, environmental concern, ecological risk, sacred values, water pollution


Sachdeva, Sonya. 2016. The influence of sacred beliefs in environmental risk perception and attitudes. Environment and Behavior. 18 p.

Last updated on: August 18, 2016