Does our personality influence behavior towards the environment?

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 11TH, 2020.-

Does a person's personality and psychological profile influence their behavior, concern and sensitivity to the environment and climate change? For it seems that it is based on the results of a British study that point to honesty and humility as traits that lead a person to be more focused on a problem, with a very direct influence on our physical and mental health

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The report contained in the journal of the Official College of Psychologists (COP) notes that the most open and most honest and humble personalities are the ones who present the best attitude and behavior for the care of the environment.

These are at least some of the findings of a recent meta-analysis published in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science.

Sources suggest that, with the aim of investigating the role of personality factors or traits in behaviour towards the environment, a research team, led by Alistair Raymond Bryce Soutter of the University of Edinburgh, has conducted a systematic review of scientific studies in this regard.

Following the review of the published articles, the study authors selected a total of 38 researches with adequate methodological quality, comprising a final sample of 44,993 people from more than 19 countries.

This is, they explain, the first systematic review to have analyzed this issue in depth.

Its authors state that "since climate change and its consequences are considered to be among the most important challenges for humanity and the Earth's ecosystem, it is important to understand why people adopt environmental attitudes and behaviors or not."


Personality and environment

In this sense, the analysis of the role of personality traits allows to offer new ways to understand these differences and provides information with interesting practical implications for the design of awareness campaigns aimed at the population.

The studies selected in the systematic review had used the Big Five personality test, which offers scores on the five personality traits (extraversion, neuroticism, kindness, awareness and openness)

Or also a test based on the HEXACO model (which includes those five traits, plus a measure of honesty-humility), as well as an assessment of different attitudes and behaviors towards the environment.

Of the personality factors analyzed, openness to experience is the trait that presents a stronger association with pro-environmental attitudes (r.22) and pro-environmental behaviors (r.21), followed by honesty-humility (r.20 and r.20 respectively).

One possible explanation for these results is that open people tend to be smarter and better informed.

As well as being more willing to accept new ideas, which allows them to access a more complete knowledge about the consequences of human actions on the environment and new habits to reduce this impact, motivating their pro-environmental behavior and facilitating the incorporation of new ways of behaving.

With regard to honesty and humility, the authors argue that, to the extent that this trait is related to an attitude of respect for others and cooperation with others, this can also be reflected in an attitude of respect for the environment and the environment.


Kindness and awareness

Other personality traits, such as kindness and awareness, showed significant associations with pro-environmental attitude and behavior, albeit to a lesser extent.

For the authors of the meta-analysis, kind people, who have a greater capacity for empathy and compassion towards others, can show this pro-environmental attitude for their empathy for future generations or the animal world.

According to the study's authors, and according to the results achieved, campaigns to promote pro-environmental behavior should target the groups that are least prone to this environmental concern.

For the first group (people with less open experience), campaigns aimed at incorporating ecological practices that are already widespread among the population and are known could be a more effective strategy than proposing new habits.

In the case of people with little honesty, humility and kindness (which would be another target population for such campaigns), campaigns based on moral imperatives towards the environment do not seem to be the best indicated because these people tend to distrust such arguments.

For this case, a message aimed at ingesting personal gains, such as economic savings from adopting pro-environmental behavior, will be more effective in motivating behavior change, as suggested in the article.

Values learned

There are factors noted in this study such as kindness that have a great correlation with the experience and values acquired and learned throughout the vital process of the person.

It also affects the factor of universalism, the awareness that you are not an isolated body and you are part of the whole universe.

This is pointed out to EFEsalud José Antonio Corraliza, Professor of Environmental Psychology at the Autonomous University of Madrid, for whom there is another key factor: the emotional affinity for biodiversity.

The fact that kindness also appears in the study is in the opinion of the psychologist, a key to personality that connects with empathy towards nature (animals, landscapes..)

But it's an empathy that more than as a personality trait "arises as a result of experience, so when you see a landscape extinguished by fire, these feelings of empathetic compassion are generated."

And this is very important, he points out, because he is a great conscientious element.

Corraliza concludes by recalling the therapeutic and psychological balance benefits of having contact with nature for anyone and argues that campaigns for the environment and for climate change should not be tremendists.

"They must promote positive experiences, because it is love and not fear of loss that makes us engage in the defense of something."

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