The Influence of Neuroticism on Proenvironmental Behavior1 Simon J. N. Holmström
Örebro University Abstract
Recent research suggests that personality traits are associated with proenvironmental behavior. However, it is unclear how the specific trait neuroticism might relate to it. This study aimed to investigate the influence of neuroticism on proenvironmental behavior and tested the hypothesis that higher neuroticism leads to more proenvironmental behaviors by higher levels of proenvironmental attitudes. Two hundred sixty-two Swedish participants answered an online survey, which included the NEO-PI-3 Neuroticism scale, the New Ecological Paradigm Scale, and the Pro-environmental Behavior Scale. Results revealed that neuroticism was not associated with proenvironmental behaviors, but that neuroticism to a small positive extent influences proenvironmental behavior by stronger proenvironmental attitudes. The author then made suggestions for why neuroticism might affect proenvironmental behavior indirectly but not directly.
Keywords: Neuroticism, Proenvironmental Attitudes, Proenvironmental Behavior
Neuroticisms inverkan på miljövänligt beteende Simon J. N. Holmström
Den senaste forskningen tyder på att personlighetsdrag är kopplade till miljövänligt beteende. Däremot är det oklart hur det specifika personlighetsdraget neuroticism kan relateras till det. Denna studie syftade till att undersöka hur neuroticism påverkar miljövänligt beteende och testade hypotesen att neuroticism leder till miljövänliga beteenden genom högre grad av miljövänliga attityder. Tvåhundrasextiotvå svenska deltagare svarade på en enkät online som innefattade neuroticism-skalan från NEO-PI-3, new ecological paradigm-skalan och pro-environmental behavior-skalan. Resultaten visade att neuroticism inte var associerat till miljövänliga beteenden, men att neuroticism till en liten, positiv grad inverkar på miljövänliga beteenden genom starkare miljövänliga attityder. Författaren gav sedan en förklaring för hur neuroticism kan påverka miljövänliga beteenden indirekt men inte direkt.
Nyckelord. Neuroticism, miljöattityder, miljövänligt beteende
Handledare: John Barnes Psykologi C
The Influence of Neuroticism on Proenvironmental Behavior
Managing the environmental crisis is one of the most crucial issues of our time, and mitigating the environmental degradation is a collective mission. Yet, we know that not everyone is willing to do something about this situation, even those holding positive
environmental attitudes (Bamberg & Möser, 2007; Gardner & Stern, 2002). There are many other factors than proenvironmental attitudes that contribute to proenvironmental behavior, such as a sense of capability to complete tasks (i.e. self-efficacy; Taberno & Hernández, 2010), to be worried about the environment (Ojala, 2007), and to have emotions bound to the behaviors in question (see Gatersleben & Steg, 2013, for review). A proenvironmental
behavior has been defined as an action “that harms the environment as little as possible, or even benefits the environment” (Steg & Vlek, 2009, p. 309). Research has recently shown that personality traits can predict many factors that influence proenvironmental behaviors. For instance, to be open-minded leads people to have strong proenvironmental attitudes and to feel more connected to the nature, which in turn makes them engage in more
proenvironmental behaviors (Brick & Lewis, 2014; Markowitz, et al., 2012). In fact,
proenvironmental attitudes are one of the prominent factors triggered by personality traits that lead to proenvironmental behavior (Hashim, Alias, Mariam, & Farzana, 2015; Stern, 2000). Environmental attitudes denote “beliefs, affect, and behavioural intentions a person holds regarding environmentally related activities or issues” (Schultz, Shriver, & Khazian, 2004, p. 31). So, by having positive beliefs, affect and an intention to act, the propulsion to engage in those behaviors will increase. However, the literature is scarce about the effect of the specific trait neuroticism on proenvironmental behavior. In a time of global procrastination of
effective interventions against environmental degradation (International Panel of Climate Change, 2014), it is crucial to understand the personality factors that affect people’s inclination to “go green”.
What is neuroticism? Neuroticism is one of five universal personality traits and refers to a constant emotional instability, which includes feelings of nervousness, worry, and anxiety (McCrae & Costa, 1997; Muris, Roelofs, Rassin, Franken, & Mayer, 2005). People high in neuroticism tend to be more concerned about negative outcomes rather than positive ones and pay more attention to possible threats and unpleasant stimuli in the environment (Bolger & Schilling, 1991; Zelenski & Larsen, 1999). Neuroticism consists of five dimensions, or facets: a) anxiety, b) angry-hostility, c) depression, d) self-consciousness, e) impulsiveness, and f) vulnerability (McCrae & Costa, 2010/2014). When being high in all these elements in various degrees, one is considered as emotionally unstable, that is, high in neuroticism.
So, what influence might neuroticism have on the inclination to go green? First of all, there are reasons to believe that individuals high in neuroticism have positive environmental attitudes. According to research, individuals high in neuroticism exhibit stronger
proenvironmental attitudes than emotionally stable people do across countries and age groups (Brick & Lewis, 2014; Hirsh, 2010; Liem & Martin, 2015; Swami, Chamorro-Premuzic, Snelgar, & Furnham, 2010; Wiseman & Bogner, 2003), although the positive connection is not always significant (Hirsh & Dolderman, 2007; Markowitz, et al., 2012). At a more specific level, people high in neuroticism have reported to hold positive attitudes towards waste-prevention (Karbalaei, Abdollahi, & Momtaz, 2014). In contrast, Milfont and Sibley (2012) found that people high in neuroticism have negative environmental attitudes, but their claim is based on only one item. Thus, it is probably not corresponding to the entire construct environmental attitudes, but just to a part of it. Others have suggested that there is no
relationship between being high in neuroticism and engagement in proenvironmental attitudes (Boeve-de Pauw, Donche, & Petegem, 2010). However, research is not always unanimous, partly because there are moderating contextual variables (Hirsh, 2014). Despite this, it appears that the majority of researchers agree on that individuals high in neuroticism are inclined to
have stronger proenvironmental attitudes than emotionally stable people. So, what might be the explanation for this? Hirsh (2010) suggested that individuals with high neuroticism engage in worry about the environmental situation because they are sensitive to negative outcomes in general, which in turn results in higher levels of proenvironmental attitudes. Similarly, Liem and Martin (2015) gave evidence that persons high in neuroticism have higher levels of proenvironmental attitudes because they have negative thoughts about the future and worries about it. This worry also leads them to search for information about the environmental hazards, which strengthens the attitudes. Thus, there is both empirical and theoretical support for the claim that people high in neuroticism exhibit stronger
proenvironmental attitudes than emotionally stable people do.
If individuals with high neuroticism hold positive environmental attitudes, then they should also be likely to act in line with their attitudes to a certain extent. According to Hashim et al. (2015), holding positive attitudes towards proenvironmental behavior predicts the behavior in question. This seems to be true. In fact, a meta-analysis showed that positive attitudes towards the environment lead to proenvironmental behavior (Bamberg & Möser, 2007). For example, specific proenvironmental attitudes towards proenvironmental behaviors has been shown to predict the behaviors, such as using energy-saving light bulbs, turning off the faucet while brushing teeth, and not driving a car (Harland, Staats, & Wilke, 1999). General proenvironmental attitudes also predicts specific behaviors. For instance, general proenvironmental attitudes lead people to recycle (Hornik & Cherian, 1995), buy
environmental friendly products (Mainieri, Barnett, Valdero, Unipan, & Oskamp, 1997), and save energy (Poortinga, Steg, & Vlek, 2004). In addition, holding high levels of general proenvironmental attitudes makes people to generally engage in proenvironmental behaviors, not only in specific activities (Kaiser, Wölfing, & Fuhrer, 1999; Meinhold & Malkus, 2005). The rationale is easily understood: the more people agree on the notion that the nature is
worth saving and that the nature is not meant for just humans, the greater the inclination to engage in proenvironmental behvior (Schultz, 2001). So, if individuals high in neuroticism show positive environmental attitudes, it would be reasonable to predict that having
neuroticism leads to proenvironmental behaviors.
Interestingly, there is no research indicating that people with neuroticism engage in proenvironmental behaviors at a general level. At a more specific level, though, individuals with high neuroticism were more prone to save electricity (Milfont & Sibley, 2012) and to be environmentally responsible tourists (Kvasova, 2015). Yet, these two behaviorally specific correlations cannot reveal if having high levels of neuroticism entails engagement in more proenvironmental behaviors at a general level. Even worse, Markowitz et al. (2012) found that neuroticism can predict behaviors that even harm the environment. Apparently, there is much to be learned in this respect. Still we cannot ascertain whether individuals high in neuroticism have a tendency to act proenvironmentally or not.
However, if it were true that individuals with neuroticism generally are holding higher levels of proenvironmental attitudes, and if proenvironmental attitudes induce
proenvironmental behavior, it would indicate that neuroticism has an indirect effect on
proenvironmental behavior. As already mentioned, personality traits are in general believed to operate in the same indirect manner (Hashim, et al., 2015; Stern, 2000). Could it apply to this context as well?
The literature about neuroticism, proenvironmental attitudes, and proenvironmental behavior has many limitations. Primarily, there is not much research on the topic, especially when it comes to neuroticism and proenvironmental behavior. No one has examined the impact of the facets of neuroticism on proenvironmental attitudes and behavior, which is relevant as neuroticism is a broad aspect of human nature. This is not surprising as the research field about personality traits and proenvironmental behavior is still in its infancy.
When there is research, however, there is no unity in how to define and operationalize environmental constructs. Some researchers want to use environmental concern and
environmental values as synonyms to environmental attitudes whereas others do not, but the preferred construct is (pro)environmental attitudes because it is overarching (Milfont & Duckitt, 2010). It is, for that sake, highly problematic to use one item as an indicator of an entire construct as Milfont and Sibley (2012) did when measuring participants’ environmental attitudes. In addition, when scales of environmental behavior are used, they do not always reflect the actual impact of their items (Markle, 2013). How, then, can we know if people exhibit “real” proenvironmental behaviors or not? Another drawback of the literature is the focus on attitudinal research. Only measuring attitudes as the dependent variable,
automatically assuming that it will lead to proenvironmental behavior is a fallacy. Although attitudes towards specific proenvironmental behaviors make people more predisposed to engage in the behaviors in question (Bamberg & Möser, 2007), there are still many barriers to action (Gardner & Stern, 2002; Eilam & Trop, 2012). Examining attitudes may not be wrong for that sake; it may give insight to how and when to push individuals into action and how personality traits may play a role in the shaping of environmental behaviors. It is therefore advisable to include both measures of proenvironmental attitudes and measures of
proenvironmental behavior in the research. Lastly, no one has previously investigated the relationship between neuroticism, proenvironmental attitudes, and proenvironmental behavior in a Swedish population. This is important because contextual factors may influence the extent to which personality traits may affect proenvironmental behavior (Hirsh, 2014). For example, Swedes have more positive environmental attitudes than Norwegians and Americans (Olofsson & Öhman, 2006) and value environmental issues higher than most other countries’ residents do when it comes to policy making (NORC, 2013). If it is true that Swedish
proenvironmental behaviors (Bamberg & Möser, 2007; Widegren, 1998). All these limitations obstruct the understanding of the effects of neuroticism on proenvironmental behavior.
In order to overcome these limitations, this study aims to investigate the relationship between neuroticism and proenvironmental behavior, both directly and indirectly. Given the previously demonstrated theoretical justifications and positive correlations observed between neuroticism and proenvironmental attitudes, and proenvironmental attitudes and
proenvironmental behavior, these three factors will be examined simultaneously. The first task is to replicate the research regarding the relationship between neuroticism and
proenvironmental attitudes with the well-established NEO-PI-3 Neuroticism scale (McCrae & Costa, 2010/2014) and the New Ecological Paradigm Scale (Dunlap, Van Liere, Mertig, & Jones, 2000). The second step involves examining if holding positive environmental attitudes and being high in neuroticism, respectively, leads to engagement in proenvironmental
activities by using the reliable Pro-Environmental Behavior Scale, which items match their actual environmental impact (Markle, 2013). Thirdly, a test for indirect effect will clarify if proenvironmental attitudes make people with high neuroticism exhibit more proenvironmental behaviors. Besides, in order to test how neuroticism might relate to both proenvironmental attitudes and proenvironmental behavior, I scrutinize the influence of the six facets of neuroticism. Including the facets in the analyses could shed light on the validity of the theory’s assumptions that higher neuroticism leads people to worry about the environment, which entails stronger proenvironmental attitudes (Hirsh, 2010; Liem & Martin, 2015). If worry is related to greater levels of proenvironmental attitudes, then the facet anxiety should correlate to proenvironmental attitudes as worry is positively linked to anxiety (Davey,
Hampton, Farrell, & Davidson, 1992). Data from a cross-sectional survey targeted to Swedish inhabitants will provide the study with data. These procedures should resolve the limitations.
people’s neuroticism on their proenvironmental behavior. Specifically, this study replicates the research regarding the relationship between neuroticism and proenvironmental attitudes, neuroticism and proenvironmental behavior, and proenvironmental attitudes and
proenvironmental behavior. Earlier research suggests that personality traits underlie proenvironmental behavior (Brick & Lewis, 2014; Hashim, et.al, 2015; Markowitz, et. al, 2012; Stern, 2000), and that higher degrees of neuroticism makes individuals prone to adopt strong proenvironmental attitudes owing to their extensive worrying about the environmental degradation (Hirsh, 2010; Liem & Martin, 2015). Moreover, given that there is a huge body of evidence showing that endorsing high proenvironmental attitudes leads to more
proenvironmental behaviors (Bamberg & Möser, 2007), I also expect the same finding in this study. Accordingly, I hypothesize that people with high levels of neuroticism have positive environmental attitudes, which eventually makes them to engage in more proenvironmental behaviors.
The research questions are:
1. Are people high in neuroticism holding strong proenvironmental attitudes? 2. Are people high in neuroticism exhibiting proenvironmental behaviors? 3. Which facets of neuroticism relate to proenvironmental attitudes and
4. Are people with strong proenvironmental attitudes engaging in proenvironmental behaviors?
5. Does being high in neuroticism lead to more proenvironmental behaviors by proenvironmental attitudes?
sampling. The only inclusion criterion was that the participants must be from Sweden. No incentives were in question. The total number of participants who initiated the survey was 262 but only 174 of them completed the entire survey, which entails a dropout rate of 34 %. In order to deal with the missing data I used pairwise deletion, meaning that participants’
answers were used when they were present. When the data was missing, it was not included in the analyses. The advantage of this approach is that all available data will produce more statistical power in contrast to listwise deletion, which means that the author deletes a participant’s entire survey response when there is missing data in it (Howell, 2008). It is important to have as high amount of participants as possible because statistical power influences the inferences.
The participants were to report to which age group they belonged. The majority of participants were young adults (see Table 1). About 69 % considered themselves females, 27 % males, and 4 % another sex.
Age distribution of the participants included in the study.
Age Amount Percentage
0 – 18 24 10 19 – 29 122 53 30 – 39 37 16 40 – 49 22 10 50 – 59 21 9 60 and above 5 2 Total 231 100
Note. The total amount of participants is in this table lower than 262 because the question about participants’ age group was in the last part of the questionnaire.
Neuroticism. The measure of neuroticism was extracted from the Swedish version of the widely established personality scale NEO-PI-3, which stands for NEO Personality
Inventory-3 (McCrae, Costa, & Martin, 2005; McCrae & Costa, 2010/2014). Researchers frequently use this personality test because it has been shown to be reliable, easily
understandable, and cross-culturally applicable (de Fruyt, de Bolle, McCrae, Terracciano, & Costa, 2009). The Swedish translation is also reliable (McCrae & Costa, 2010/2014), and when used in this study, the scale showed Cronbach’s alpha .94, which is very high according to guidelines (Cohen, 1988). Also the six facets of neuroticism demonstrated reliability: anxiety (α = .86), angry-hostility (α = .76), depression (α = .86), self-consciousness (α = .83), impulsiveness (α = .70), and vulnerability (α = .79). Every facet consisted of eight items each and the statements included for example “I often worry about things that might go wrong”, “sometimes I feel absolutely useless”, and “I find it hard to resist my strong desires and needs”. Participants judge the match on each item on a five point Likert scale from 0 (disagree strongly) to 4 (strongly agree). Many of the items were reverse coded. The scores where then added together.
In this sample, 51.0 % reported to be high in neuroticism and 19.5 % emotionally stable according to the guidelines of NEO-PI-3 (McCrae & Costa, 2010/2014). The variation was normally distributed. The participants were generally higher in neuroticism (M = 88.85, SD = 30.76) than the normative data (M = 82.7, SD = 22.3; McCrae & Costa, 2010/2014), but the scores were more widespread.
Proenvironmental attitudes. Despite that there is no consensus in how to
operationalize environmental attitudes, most researchers use the New Ecological Paradigm Scale when measuring a general attitude towards the environment (Dunlap, 2008; Hawcroft & Milfont, 2008). Specifically, the scale measures whether participants hold an ecocentric
versus an anthropocentric worldview (Dunlap, et al., 2000). Holding an ecocentric perspective indicates that you think the nature is worth saving and more important than the desires of humanity (i.e. proenvironmental attitudes), whereas anthropocentricism denotes thinking that humans are to rule over nature. The scale contains three subscales: balance of nature, limits to growth, and humans over nature. The scale is comprehendible for adolescents (Petegem & Blieck, 2006) and demonstrates acceptable reliability (Dunlap, et al., 2000). The measure has also previously been used in a Swedish population (e.g., Olofsson & Öhman, 2006). In the present study, Cronbach’s alpha was .75, which is reliable (Cohen, 1988). Participants answered to 15 items, which participants rated on a five point Likert Scale from 1 (disagree strongly) to 5 (strongly agree). The odd numbered items were reverse coded. “We are approaching the limit of the number of people the earth can support” is one example of an item from the scale. The scores of all items were added together. The translated version of this scale is in Appendix A.
Most participants exhibited high scores of environmental attitudes (M = 60.60, Mdn = 61.00, SD = 7.15). According to guidelines, a median of 45 suffices to predict
proenvironmental behaviors (Pienaar, Lew, & Wallmo, 2015).
Proenvironmental behavior. As with environmental attitudes, there are many scales measuring proenvironmental behavior, many of which comprise items that may have very little environmental impact (Markle, 2013). After reviewing 42 measures of the concept, Markle developed the Pro-environmental Behavior Scale based on environmental
significance, factor analysis, tests of validity and reliability analysis. Despite no one has tested whether participants may over-report their behaviors to appear in better light when responding to this scale, research suggests this should not be a major concern (Milfont, 2009). The scale is 19-item long and showed Cronbach’s alpha .76 in Markle’s study, which is above the guidelines (Cohen, 1988). The reliability of the scale in the present study was a bit lower, still
acceptable (α = .71; Cohen, 1988). The subscales are conservation, environmental citizenship, food, and transportation. The statements include “how often do you cut down on heating or air conditioning to limit energy use?” and “during the past year have you decreased the amount of beef you consume?”. Participants had to answer the statements in different graded scales. Some items required only yes/no responses; in other items, participants answered on three and five point Likert scales. The scores of the items were then added together.
Many participants reported the following item as problematic: “Please answer the following question based on the vehicle you drive most often: approximately how many miles per gallon does the vehicle get?” Those who did not use a vehicle for transportation had problems with answering this item. Reliability analysis indicated that this item did not match participants’ answers on the other items and would make the entire scale unreliable.
Therefore, I deleted the item. See appendix B for the translated scale.
Although there are no guidelines for assessment of the scale scores of the
Pro-environmental Behavior Scale, the present mean value, M = 62.73, SD = 9.71, is closer to the possible intermediate 45 scores than to the maximum value 90. Thus, the obtained mean value indicates that most the participants report moderate proenvironmental behaviors.
The survey program at www.webbenkäter.se provided the adequate tools for designing and administering the questionnaire. Research has demonstrated that this data collection on the Internet has not any remarkable difference to pen-and-paper questionnaires (Riva, Teruzzi, & Anolli, 2003; Tolstikova & Chartier, 2009). A pilot study assessed for instance the time for completing the survey, item adequacy, and the potential impacts of the design. Two of the scales, the New Ecological Paradigm Scale and the Pro-environmental Behavior Scale, had not Swedish counterparts and needed translation. Using different Internet translation tools to translate the scales from English to Swedish and back again for checking the correspondence,
along with the feedback from the pilot study yielded an understandable and correct translation.
I shared the link via social media. Sharing the link on relevant Facebook groups was the frequently used course of action, including groups for students and green politicians. From there, people shared the link further. The questionnaire contained a presentation of the study, the neuroticism scale from NEO-PI-3, the New Ecological Paradigm Scale measuring proenvironmental attitudes, the Pro-environmental Behavior Scale, and demographic
information (i.e. gender and age group), in this order. Participants were encouraged to respond honestly throughout the survey. Despite that the survey tool ensured one answer per
IP-number, it guaranteed anonymity. IP-numbers were stored in the website but were not available to anyone. Completion of the questionnaire took 10 – 15 minutes. Data collection lasted for 12 days.
The statistical program IBSM Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS) version 22 provided the adequate tools for the analyses. Initially, I calculated Cronbach’s alpha in order to test the reliability of the measures and produced descriptive statistics. I conducted bivariate correlation analyses between neuroticism, its facets, proenvironmental attitudes, and
proenvironmental behavior to assess the nature of the associations between the variables. As gender and age group may influence the degree of neuroticism, proenvironmental attitudes and proenvironmental behavior, these two variables were controlled for when assessing the correlation and regression coefficients.
In order to test for indirect effect, series of linear regressions were conducted. First, a simple linear regression tested the predictive power of neuroticism on proenvironmental attitudes and on proenvironmental behavior. Then the variable proenvironmental attitudes was set as a predictor to proenvironmental behaviors when controlling for neuroticism in a
multiple regression. At the same time, the effect of neuroticism on proenvironmental behavior when controlling for proenvironmental attitudes was examined. If significant relations, then one may proceed to the test for indirect effect. These procedures constitute mediation
analysis, but I prefer to use “test for indirect effect” because the hypothesis was not to find a relation between the predictor neuroticism, and the outcome proenvironmental behavior. As knowledge about research statistics has grown recently a “relationship between x
[neuroticism] and y [proenvironmental behavior] is not a condition of mediational analysis in the 21st century” (A. F. Hayes, personal communication, June 6, 2015). That is, neuroticism does not need to relate to proenvironmental behavior in order to test for indirect effect because there may be confounding, suppressing, and other effects from variables that limits the significance of the relation between the predictor and the outcome (see Mathieu & Taylor, 2006, for the difference of indirect effect and mediation). Nevertheless, the procedures to the test for indirect effect are the same as to mediation analysis.
I used bias-corrected bootstrap test in order to evaluate the statistical significance of the indirect effect of neuroticism on proenvironmental behavior via proenvironmental
attitudes. The number of bootstrap samples was 5,000 and the confidence interval was 95 %. Despite that the bootstrapping procedure is preferable over the Sobel test as it accepts
violations from the assumption of symmetric distribution (Preacher & Hayes, 2008), I also included the Sobel test for comparison. If the results from the bootstrapping test produce confidence intervals including zero, one can conclude that there is no indirect effect. Finally, I chose the kappa-squared (κ2) as the estimator of the effect size of the indirect effect (Preacher & Kelley, 2011). The statistical macro PROCESS provided the tools for testing indirect effect and effect size with bias-corrected confidence intervals (Hayes, 2013). These procedures will answer the questions whether and how neuroticism influences proenvironmental behavior.
The present study investigates how the personality trait neuroticism might affect proenvironmental behavior. The measures were the neuroticism scale from NEO-PI-3, the New Ecological Paradigm Scale, and the Pro-environmental Behavior Scale. Correlation analyses showed the associations between the variables and series of regressions checked the requirements of the test for indirect effect. Lastly, I examined the indirect effect of
neuroticism on proenvironmental behavior by proenvironmental attitudes.
Bivariate Pearson’s correlation coefficients between proenvironmental attitudes, proenvironmental behavior, neuroticism, and its six facets.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 1. PEA - - - - 2. PEB .34*** - - - - 3. N .18** .03 - - - - 4. A .13* -.05 .90*** - - - - 5. A/H .22** .14* .76*** .60*** - - - - - 6. D .14* .04 .89*** .79*** .60*** - - - - 7. S .17* .01 .86*** .77*** .53*** .77*** - - - 8. I .08 .01 .52*** .30*** .44*** .33*** .28*** - - 9. V .14* .02 .84*** .76*** .55*** .72*** .69*** .33*** -
Note. PEA = proenvironmental attitudes; PEB = proenvironmental behavior; N = neuroticism; A = anxiety; A/H = angry-hostility; D = depression; S = self-consciousness; I =
impulsiveness; V = vulnerability. * p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001.
Are people high in neuroticism holding strong proenvironmental attitudes? According to the participants’ self-reports there is a significant positive correlation between neuroticism and proenvironmental attitudes, r (232) = .18, p = .006. After controlling for the effects of age
and gender, the relationship was still significant, r (226) = .16, p = .018. That is, the more neurotic an individual is, the stronger are the proenvironmental attitudes.
Are people high in neuroticism exhibiting proenvironmental behavior? Correlation analysis reveals that neuroticism is not significantly linked with proenvironmental behavior, r (228) = .03, p = .622. The connection was still non-significant when controlling for age and gender, r (226) = .05, p = .434. In other words, individuals high in neuroticism do not engage in proenvironmental activities at a general level.
Which facets of neuroticism relate to proenvironmental attitudes and behaviors? Impulsive individuals reported to have neither proenvironmental attitudes, r (226) = .02, p = .727, nor proenvironmental behavior, r (226) = .00, p = .973, but impulsiveness was not a strong part of neuroticism in any case according to the correlations to the other facets of neuroticism (see Table 2). All other facets were linked to higher levels of proenvironmental attitudes. In addition, individuals high in anger and hostility did report more proenvironmental behaviors, r (226) = .13, p = .045. No other facet related to proenvironmental behavior.
Are people with strong proenvironmental attitudes engaging in proenvironmental behaviors? According to the participants’ responses, there was a significant, positive relationship between their proenvironmental attitudes and proenvironmental behaviors, r (228) = .34, p < .001. This value represents a moderate correlation (Cohen, 1988). After controlling for gender and age, the moderate correlation persisted, r (226) = .31, p < .001. In other words, the higher a person endorses positive environmental attitudes, the higher the inclination to exhibit proenvironmental behavior.
Then, does being high in neuroticism lead to more proenvironmental behaviors by proenvironmental attitudes? As Table 3 shows, neuroticism did not make people to report more proenvironmental behaviors, β = .03, p = 622, but it did lead to stronger
Summary of linear regression analyses. Unstandardized coefficients Standardized coefficients Out-come B SE β t p F R2 PEB .24 .00 (Constant) 62.13 1.83 - 33.98 .000 Neuroticism .01 .02 .03 .49 .622 PEA 7.85 .03 (Constant) 56.84 1.42 - 40.03 .000 Neuroticism .04 .02 .18 2.80 .006 PEB 14.65 .11 (Constant) 37.34 4.91 - 7.60 .000 Neuroticism -.01 . 02 -.02 -.38 .708 PEA .43 .08 .34 5.39 .000
Note. PEB = proenvironmental behavior; PEA = proenvironmental attitudes.
attitudes did predict proenvironmental behaviors when controlling for neuroticism, β = .34, p < .001. Therefore, the requirements for testing for indirect effect were met. When testing the significance of the indirect effect, the bootstrapped 95 % bias-corrected confidence interval ranged from 0.004, 0.034. Thus, the indirect effect was statistically significant. The indirect effect also demonstrates significance with the Sobel test, z = 2.12, p = .034. The total influence of the indirect effect on proenvironmental behavior, κ2 = .06, [0.014, 0.116], was small according to rule of thumb (Cohen, 1988). When controlling for age and gender, the indirect effect was still significant, 95 % BCa CI [0.003, 0.032], z = .2.04, p = .042. In other words, neuroticism seems to a certain extent make people adopt strong proenvironmental attitudes, which in turn lead them to engage in more proenvironmental behaviors (see Figure
Figure 1. Standardized regression coefficients for the relationship between neuroticism and proenvironmental behavior by proenvironmental attitudes.
* p < .01, ** p < .001.
This study has taken a closer look at the influence of neuroticism on proenvironmental behavior. Results showed that individuals high in neuroticism did not report to exhibit more proenvironmental behaviors, but as predicted, they did report to have higher levels of
proenvironmental attitudes. Besides, all facets of neuroticism but impulsiveness were related to higher levels of environmental attitudes, which paves the way for more elaborate
interpretations of the relationship between neuroticism and proenvironmental attitudes. In turn, the higher proenvironmental attitudes lead to more proenvironmental behaviors among people high in neuroticism, as expected. That is, neuroticism played a role on
proenvironmental behavior indirectly. However, the effect size of the indirect effect was not big indicating that other factors might suppress the relationship between being high in neuroticism and engaging in proenvironmental activities.
In the present study, people’s level of neuroticism was positively associated with their degree of proenvironmental attitudes. Similarly, most researchers have found a positive association in this respect, suggesting that neuroticism leads people to have strong
proenvironmental attitudes by higher environmental worry (Hirsh, 2010; Liem & Martin, 2015). Although this study might offer support to previous research, the present results cannot be generalized into all settings because contextual factors might obstruct the relationship between neuroticism and proenvironmental behavior (Hirsh, 2014). Nonetheless, it seems that Swedish individuals high in neuroticism hold more positive environmental attitudes.
This study also contributes to the understanding of how personality traits can operate in the formation of proenvironmental behaviors. Previously, researchers have argued that several personality factors are remote triggers of proenvironmental behaviors (Brick & Lewis, 2014; Markowitz, et al., 2012;Swami, et al., 2010). However, obstructing factors has not been given so much attention. This study suggests there may be suppressing elements that do not make people to engage in proenvironmental activities. This is interesting as proenvironmental attitudes have been targeted as strong factors between personality and proenvironmental behaviors (Hashim, et al., 2015; Stern, 2000). In other words, given that individuals high in neuroticism did not engage in proenvironmental behaviors in spite of the positive indirect effect via proenvironmental attitudes, it is reasonable to believe that there are many other intervening factors between neuroticism and proenvironmental behavior.
The present study also enlarges the literature when it comes to the influence of emotions on proenvironmental behavior. All facets of neuroticism but one showed to be associated with proenvironmental attitudes. These findings are consistent with claims that emotions are important in explaining environmental concern (see Gatersleben & Steg, 2013, for review). For instance, participants who reported to be easily upset reported to have higher degrees of proenvironmental attitudes, and those who were high in angry-hostility even exhibited more proenvironmental behaviors. However, by correlations we cannot ascertain what causes what. Future research should therefore examine how emotions operate in the shaping of environmental attitudes and proenvironmental behavior.
higher levels of proenvironmental attitudes? Research have suggested that individuals high in neuroticism have higher levels of proenvironmental attitudes due to their worrying about the negative consequences of the environmental degradation, and that this concern leads them to search for information about what worries them (Hirsh, 2010; Liem and Martin, 2015). Worry has been linked to higher anxiety (Davey, et al., 1992), and anxiety was in this study
correlated to stronger proenvironmental attitudes. Moreover, environmental worry has
previously been considered as a motivator for proenvironmental behaviors (Ojala, 2007). It is still difficult to posit that feeling anxious leads to environmental worry because it may as well be the other way around. Future research has to investigate the validity of this theory by including environmental worry.
However, the theory does not cover proenvironmental behavior. The reasonable explanation for why neuroticism generally did not lead people to engage in more proenvironmental behaviors is that the path from personality traits to proenvironmental behavior generally is remote (e.g., Brick & Lewis, 2014). Many things can happen throughout the path in various contexts (Hirsh, 2014). As earlier mentioned, other factors not included in this study might cancel out the positive indirect effect found in this study by for instance being positively associated with neuroticism and negatively associated with proenvironmental behavior. One example is self-efficacy, that is, a sense of capability to complete tasks, which research has linked with higher proenvironmental behaviors (Taberno & Hernández, 2010). As people high in neuroticism often are anxious and feel bad about themselves, it would be reasonable to speculate that they are not prone to feel themselves empowered to accomplish tasks, which in turn leads to less proenvironmental behaviors. Consequently, individuals high in neuroticism may not act proenvironmentally because there may be other factors beyond the scope of this thesis that interfere with the demonstrated positive indirect effect.
more proenvironmental behavior, whilst no other facet of neuroticism was associated with proenvironmental behavior at all. One speculation for this finding is that the environmental crisis might provoke anger in people to the extent that they engage in proenvironmental behavior. The behaviors might therefore reflect a type of coping strategy by which the individual tries to release some steam and get rid of their negative feelings. Again, there is much to be learned about the influence of people’s emotions on their proenvironmental behavior.
There are, however, some limitations to the study worth mentioning. The biggest of them all is the correlational design of the study, which limits us to make causal inferences. A longitudinal study could have clarified cause and effect. Thus, this study may only provide hints of the human nature. Second, it is plausible that the questionnaire attracted already environmentally engaged people due to the convenience and snowball sampling method. Indeed, the sampling methods tend to have an impact on the result of the New Ecological Paradigm Scale, particularly if the respondents are environmentalists (Hawcroft & Milfont, 2008). One may argue that the links from attitudes and behaviors could have been
strengthened by that. Third, the connection between attitudes and behaviors could also have been altered by the order effect of the scales. Unfortunately, having the scales on one web page each made it possible for participants to overestimate their environmental behavior after having thought about their environmental attitudes. Random sampling methods and a mixed order of items would have been preferred. Yet, the fact that the answers in all the scales were comparably widespread indicates that the effects of the sampling method and the missing data were limited. Fourth, the use of the Pro-environmental Behavior Scale had some
disadvantages. We do not know if self-reported proenvironmental behaviors are factual; can we trust that people responds to the question honestly and do as they say? According to research, we can, because respondents on scales that measure environmental attitudes and
environmental behavior are not generally over-estimating their survey responses in order to appear in a better manner (Milfont, 2009). Fifth, the Pro-environmental Behavior Scale may be culturally inappropriate in some ways. A behavior that is not common is the US may be the norm in Sweden. For instance, one item was deleted from the analyses due to complaints about that the scale assumed the participants had a car. However, although the behavior scale should have been culturally adjusted and more validated before usage, it is probably one of the better alternatives when it comes to measuring environmental behaviors that reflect the environmental impact. It demonstrated also reliability after deletion of a confusing item. Lastly, the dropout rate may also have influenced the results. Participants who left the study could have been individuals who do not see the point of research on proenvironmental
behavior; they may think environmental issues are unimportant. Consequently, the results may have been less significant if using random sampling method with a low dropout rate. All these limitations have to entail a more humble interpretation of the results.
Despite these concerns, the present study has several strengths. Researchers have previously mostly focused on the impact of traits on environmental attitudes. This study has contributed to the pull in a new direction: to include self-reported behavior. This is important because proenvironmental attitudes do not always lead to proenvironmental behaviors (Bamberg & Möser, 2007; Gardner & Stern, 2002). The present study also replicates the positive connection between being high in neuroticism and having strong proenvironmental attitudes in Swedish conditions. Moreover, this is the first study to investigate the correlations of the facets of neuroticism, proenvironmental attitudes, and proenvironmental behaviors, in the same time making suggestions about the validity of the theory between neuroticism and proenvironmental attitudes. Lastly, the study found an indirect effect of neuroticism on proenvironmental behaviors by proenvironmental attitudes. This is not so interesting in itself, but it implicates that something else is hindering people high in neuroticism to engage in
proenvironmental behaviors. The present study indeed contributes to an emerging research field.
The lack of highly significant results is also a result. I have showed that there is a path for individuals with neuroticism to proenvironmental behavior through proenvironmental attitudes. Further research has to examine the other pathways that counteract this positive indirect effect. In general, more research has to discover personality factors underlying proenvironmental behavior as the literature still is very scarce. By targeting barriers and contributors to proenvironmental behavior, the society can optimize environmental
interventions. After all, understanding what makes people go green is vital in a time when the alarm bells of the environment constantly are ringing. In doing so, we could reach a point when the power to mitigate the effects of the environmental degradation is strong enough so that future generations also can reside on earth.
I wish to express my sincere thanks to John Barnes for providing me with scientific supervising and continuous encouragement for the thesis despite the allocation of unsocial working hours. I am also grateful to Mats Liljegren, who provided me with the neuroticism scale and relevant supplements crucial for this study, and to Matti Molin and Vilgot Engberg Pramling for their intellectual feedback. I take this opportunity to thank the participants in the study as well; without them, I would be standing in the rain by now. As a severe disease prohibited weeks of work, I lastly want to place on record my sense of gratitude to one and all who have lent their hand in my recovery.
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The New Ecological Paradigm Scale translated into Swedish
1. Vi närmar oss gränsen för antalet personer som jorden kan försörja.
2. Människor har rätt att förändra den naturliga miljön för att passa deras behov. 3. När människan ingriper i naturen, ger det ofta katastrofala följder.
4. Människans uppfinningsrikedom kommer att försäkra att vi inte gör jorden obeboelig. 5. Människor missbrukar allvarligt miljön.
6. Jorden har gott om naturtillgångar, om vi bara lär oss hur vi utvecklar dem. 7. Växter och djur har lika mycket rätt som människor att existera.
8. Balansen i naturen är stark nog att klara av effekterna av moderna industrinationer. 9. Trots våra speciella förmågor är människor fortfarande föremål för naturens lagar. 10. Mänsklig förstörelse av den naturliga miljön har kraftigt överdrivits.
11. Jorden har endast begränsat utrymme och resurser. 12. Människan var tänkt att härska över resten av naturen. 13. Balansen i naturen är mycket känslig och lätt att rubba.
14. Människor kommer så småningom lära sig tillräckligt om hur naturen fungerar för att kunna kontrollera den.
15. Om saker fortsätter på sin nuvarande kurs, kommer vi snart att uppleva en stor ekologisk katastrof.
The Pro-environmental Behavior Scale translated into Swedish
2. Hur ofta stänger du av standby-läget på elektroniska apparater?
3. Hur ofta skär du ner på värmen eller luftkonditioneringen för att begränsa energianvändningen?
4. Hur ofta stänger du av TV:n när du lämnar ett rum?
5. Hur ofta begränsar du din tid i duschen för att spara vatten?
6. Hur ofta väntar du tills du har fullt i tvättmaskinen eller diskmaskinen? 7. Vid vilken temperatur tvättar du de flesta av dina kläder?
8. Är du just nu medlem i någon miljö-, naturskydds-, eller djurrättsgrupp?
9. Under det senaste året, har du bidragit med pengar till en miljö-, naturskydds-, eller djurrättsgrupp?
10. Hur ofta tittar du på tv-program, filmer eller internetklipp om miljöfrågor? 11. Hur ofta har du pratat med andra om ditt miljöbeteende?
12. Under det senaste året, har du ökat mängden ekologiskt odlade frukter och grönsaker du konsumerar?
13. Under det senaste året har du minskat mängden nötkött du konsumerar? 14. Under det senaste året har du minskat mängden fläsk du konsumerar? 15. Under det senaste året har du minskat mängden fjäderfä du konsumerar? 16. Under det senaste året, hur ofta har du använt bilpool?
17. Under det senaste året, hur ofta har du använt kollektivtrafik?