Purpose Acquisition of environmental awareness is a necessary step versus environmental renascence. Due to the complex and interdisciplinary character of the argument, regarding this issue only a small literature has emerged. The paper contributes to fill in this lacuna and investigates the factors responsible for the acquisition of awareness from the institutional perspective. Approach Acquiring environmental awareness is seen as an interactive process involving institutional transformation. We put forward a general scheme of the interplay between institutions and awareness, considering the different channels of the acquisition. Findings The interaction of institutional change and cognitive development determines the positive and negative channels influencing awareness. The analysis shows that enforcement of formal rules and purposeful construction of informal rules contribute to create a favourable framework for the acquisition. Research limitations Even though the analysis has a certain degree of abstraction, it could serve as a starting point to develop multidisciplinary research on environmental awareness and can be used for a further empirical analysis. Social implications To enhance awareness, a policy maker should allocate additional resources to formal rules enforcement, while informal rules should be accounted for by considering cultural backgrounds, intelligence and human capital. Formation of awareness through the spread of environmental education is argued to be a functional tool. Originality This work develops a new generic scheme of different channels for the acquisition of awareness based on the interplay of institutions and cognitive processes and discusses its implications. The analysis leaves much space for further multidisciplinary research on environmental awareness.
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