Whether you’re concerned with how your actions affect the environment could be partly a matter of personality. That’s according to a new study from researchers in Brașov, Romania that looked at whether personal characteristics influence how likely people are to engage in pro-environmental behaviors.
The researchers found that several personality traits influenced how often people engaged in environmentally friendly behaviors. These included honesty and agreeableness as well as proactivity – which makes sense, since you’d expect that people with the latter trait would be more likely to take proactive steps to protect the environment.
Another trait that led to pro-environmental behaviors was openness, which involves a tendency to be more open to new experiences, to new ideas, and to changes. People who score low on this trait tend to be more politically conservative.
Besides these personality traits, the researchers found that having pro-environmental attitude was associated with engaging in more pro-environmental behaviors – a finding that makes intuitive sense, of course!
Interestingly, having a pro-environmental attitude itself seems to be linked to certain personality traits. A 2012 study titled Profiling the “Pro-Environmental Individual”: A Personality Perspective found that in both a group of 115 students and a group of 778 people from the general community, openness to experience correlated with pro-environmental attitudes.
A 2015 study looked at why two particular personality traits – openness to experience and honesty/humility – apparently go hand-in-hand with environmentally friendly attitudes. It found that these traits are related to feeling both a connection to nature and a connection to humanity generally, which explained part of the link with ecological attitudes and behaviors. After all, if you feel a strong connection humanity and nature, it stands to reason that you’d want to protect both by maintaining the environment!
These results aren’t to say that environmental views and behaviors are purely a matter of personality. To be sure, learning more about the environment and about the environmental effects of certain behaviors can change people’s attitudes quite a bit. Still, it does seem that all else being equal, some people more naturally gravitate to being concerned about the environment and acting in an environmentally sustainable way – in particular, people who are agreeable, honest, proactive and open to new experiences.