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Country's Environmentalism Predicted By Citizen "Personality"

Update Date: Oct 24, 2014 04:41 PM EDT

A country's personality can predict how its citizens deal with environmental issues.

Researchers from the University of Toronto found that countries with higher levels of compassion and openness were significantly more conscious of environmental sustainability.

"We used to think that personality only mattered for individual outcomes but we're finding that population differences in personality characteristics have many large-scale consequences," lead researcher Jacob Hirsh, an Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior & Human Resource Management at the University of Toronto Mississauga's Institute for Management & Innovation, said in a news release.

Researchers used data collected from over 12,000 people in 51 counties to determine nation-level personality traits, which reflect the average trait profiles of a country's citizens. Hirsh and his team found that personality scores could accurately predict a country's Environmental Performance Index (EPI), which scores countries across 22 environmental indicators, including Co2 emission levels, use of renewable energy, and ecosystem management. Higher scores reflect more environmentally sustainable practices.

The findings revealed that agreeableness and openness positively correlated with a country's EPI scores. Researchers said that findings held true even after accounting for national differences in wealth, education, and population size.

"Not only can a person's attitudes 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," Hirsh concluded.

The findings are published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology.

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