Values Affect Our Behaviour?

by Jiunn Yi Ooi

I believe we are all aware that our natural environment is being harmed by our actions. This is becoming quite a concern among us. We can ask the 3 W questions in this problem. How our actions harm the natural environment? What can we do to save our natural environment? Why do we need to solve this problem?

Activities such as deforestation, agricultural practices (usage of pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals) , transportation, etc. Human behaviour has been the main reason causing harm to the natural environment.  Therefore a numbers of studies have been done to examine these problems, and the link between values and environmental attitudes.

Schultz et al. reported the relationship between the values and environmental attitudes in six countries. The reason for running these studies is that  the values and the various cultures provide a lens through which our understanding of environmental problems is framed. It also provides an aspect of these problems concerning us, and the solutions that seem reasonable and will be effective at addressing those human actions.  The valued objects are oriented around three basic sources: self, other people, or all living things. There are 3 environmental attitudes where it is the concern about the environment in different levels. An egoistic attitude is at a personal level, the social-altruistic attitude is for all people and lastly biospheric attitudes are based on all living species including animals and plants.

Through our thoughtless actions, we have caused an irreversible damage upon Mother Nature. Negative effects are such as endangered wildlife, greenhouse effect and the depletion of the ozone layer. Most environmental degradation is not immediately tangible. Things like nuclear radiation or the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere cannot be perceived. Even changes like the loss of species, which is noticeable, usually go unnoticed by the layperson. Many animals have gone into extinction without us realizing. The Tecopa pupfish. Heard of this? Neither have I. This apparently is a native fish in the USA and it was declared extincted in 1981.

It can be said that cultures in small, highly populated countries such as the Netherlands, tend to be more resource conscientious, as compare to countries that are larger and resource-rich. Richer countries such as the USA were found to have a far greater negative environmental impact than poorer countries such as Brazil. But this does not mean that the poorer countries lack of environmental concern. I believe they have intention to act environmentally, however they lack the resources to do so.

In the study, it was found that people’s behaviours towards the environment have a very strong correlation with their cultural norms. Countries that are more developed tend to care more about themselves than other people. To be honest, I was surprised to find that this is the case. I thought that being a developed country, they can now use their resources on other things, like trying to improve the environment, making the environment one of their top priorities.



Schultz, P., Gouveia, V., Cameron, L., Tankha, G., Schmuck, P., & Franék, M. (2005). Values and their relationship to environmental concern and conservation behavior. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 36(4), 457.


3 comments so far

  1. giselle013 on

    I agree with the perspective on the article – that richer countries tend to care about themselves. Is there something about being rich that precludes being an environmentalist? I see, Jiunn Yi, that you were surprised by this article, as you thought that richer countries would use their resources to improve the environment. But, i can see how this is not the case. I find, with the richer countries, fewer people are in touch with their natural surroundings, as they work so many hours in offices, and thus loose that connection. In many cases though, there is a trade-off between the two; people caring about economics and people caring about the environment. Environmentalism might offer such a threat to business interests that one can’t be a businessman and an environmentalist simultaneously. So what does this mean for our future, in terms of sustainability? will we carry on to rape the environment because business comes first? Maybe the poorer we get the more the environment affects us personally

  2. Ayshe Kerimofski on

    I agree with the article as well, people in the developed nations seem to care more about their comfort than the environment. Just ask the women who drive the massive 4WD’s and have absolutely no intention of going off road, unless it’s to park on the verge, but even then. They only reason for driving these monstrosities is for the roominess and status regardless of the fact that a sedan would fulfil their needs and a prius wouldn’t be out of their budget.
    I also agree with you giselle in that people are definitly more focussed on business than the environment. The state of the economy is more important than the environment. This leads us to ask why? Is it because are thinking of the money of today and not the consequences of the world tomorrow, it may be due to the way we percieve the two, economists being sensible men in suits and environmentalists as hippies? I think giselle that the poorer we get the more we’ll need to rely on the environment

  3. kohx01 on

    Hello Jiunn Yi =)
    It’s true that the environmental behaviour varies between countries. I believe that cultural norms play a very important role in shaping people’s behaviour, and so their behaviour towards the environment too.
    Like for instance, from the paper I had to read, there was a study on the history of policy reactions to acid rain in Germany and in the UK. They found out that the high cultural value of their forest, along with its geographical position, caused the Germans to make a drastically different approach towards acid rain. The Germans’ strong need for security and stability was also the main cause for this difference in action.
    But, like you, I too, was surprised that the more developed countries had a high egoistic concern than those of the developing countries. However, I think Giselle had made a very good point in explaining the reason.

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