Personality affects environmental policies

The reason why all the countries do not share equal passion for sustainable environment may have to do a lot with their national personalities, a research shows.

IANS| Updated: Oct 24, 2014, 13:24 PM IST

Toronto: The reason why all the countries do not share equal passion for sustainable environment may have to do a lot with their national personalities, a research shows.

Countries with higher levels of compassion and openness score better when it comes to environmental sustainability, the findings showed.

"Not only can a person's attitude about the environment be predicted from his or her personality traits, but the environmental practices of entire nations can be predicted from the personality profiles of their citizens," said study author Jacob Hirsh, assistant professor at University of Toronto in Canada.

The study examined nation-level personality traits from a database of over 12,000 people in 51 countries.

National personality differences, reflecting average trait profiles of a country's citizens, were used to predict scores on the Environmental Performance Index (EPI).

The EPI, developed at Yale and Columbia Universities, ranks countries across 22 environmental indicators, including CO2 emission levels, use of renewable energy, and ecosystem management.

Higher scores on the EPI, reflecting more environmentally sustainable practices, were positively correlated with national levels of two personality traits: Agreeableness, which reflects empathy and compassion; and openness, which reflects cognitive flexibility and aesthetic appreciation.

"These results highlight the psychological factors that can shape a nation's environmental policies," Hirsh pointed out.

The study was published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology.