Our values and the environment

Values and their Relationship to Environmental Concern and Conservation Behaviour

So, there’s actually a research to find the correlation between values (of our own) and attitudes about environmental issues. The findings, “self-transcendence” and “self-enhancement” are the main values to predict one’s general concern towards environmental problems. Other findings have differentiated between environmental attitudes based on concern for self (egoistic), concern for other people (social-altruistic) and concern for plants and animals (biospheric) (Schultz et. al., 1999).

There is already a worldwide poll that suggests: people acknowledge that environmental problems are amongst the most important problems of the day (Dunlap et. al., 1993) and that in the coming years the severity will increase (Dunlap et. al., 2001). The link between the types of environmental concerns and values is clear (i.e. long established), but the link between values and environmental behaviour is less clear; hence this study.

For the record, the study is conducted across six countries for cross-cultural generalizability: Brazil, Czech Republic, Germany, India, New Zealand and Russia, with a sample size of at least 120 (n = >120), all of which were university students in the social and behavioural sciences.

I’m not sure why they couldn’t get students from the other faculty or why isn’t there at least one South-East Asian country to be part of the sampling pool, since this study is supposed to be a ‘cross-cultural’ representation. I could only think that the research is still in the initial stages, so the data will be expanded thereafter. Though there’s no mention of further pursuing or expanding this study.. at all.

Anyway, this is quite a very technical research paper with lots of data, formulaes and all – one that the statistics nerds will dig. I will now break down the details with my inferior statistical analysis “skills”:


Oh look, they lied about having at least n=120! Why Czech Republic only has 113 participants sure wasn’t elaborated in the paper.


Now, using the long list of the above behavioural values, what this means: different countries have different opinions about what matters most when it comes to environmental behaviours. Not surprisingly. (An infograph sure would have helped all the illiterate like myself) For instance, the Brazil sample (Mean = 6.35), they felt that they should care for the environment because the problems affect other people (Altruistic concerns ranked as the most important). Whereas in Soviet Russia, Egoistic concerns (Mean = 6.05) is ranked as the most important when it comes to environmental behaviour because of the effects it may have on their health e.g. air pollution.


Last I recalled, these numbers could also be translated into a diagram but they had to show raw data. Why oh why?


These numbers means . . . . . . .  in all six samples, the biospheric concern is significantly correlated positively with self-transcendence and that biospheric is also the most significantly negatively correlated with self-enhancement.

The study concludes that these data may help to craft and tailor made an even more effective environmental messages and programs depending on the geographical location. Different regions have different opinions/ views as to why they should care for the environment – which I certainly don’t question.

I only question the process and methodologies of this research. The data is concluded based on a specific profile of participants, a group who are very educated and informed. It also eliminates their religion, the background (e.g. rich, not so rich people, broken family?) and their social circle. Maybe I’m not qualified to even make such a statement but I think generalising a relationship cross-culturally is not exactly practical.

Feel free to disagree, I’d like to hear your side of the argument. 🙂



Dunlap, R. E., Gallup, G.,&Gallup, A. (1993). Global environmental concern: Results from an international public survey. Environment35, 7-39.

Dunlap, R., & Saad, L. (2001, April). Only one in four Americans are anxious about the environment: Most favor moderate approach to environmental protection. Gallup Poll Monthly (Report No. 427, pp. 6-16). Princeton, NJ:Gallup.

Schultz, P.W., & Zelezny, L. C. (1999). Values as predictors of environmental attitudes: Evidence for consistency across 14 countries. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 19, 255-265.



– exstarlight

(**edited , accidentally left out references)


2 comments so far

  1. snowkinz on

    mmm the data table really very boring~ all numbers. they could be more visual if they had graphs.
    the pattern they chose to survey is actually quite good, over countries. as different countries have different views on enviromental issues. for eg Japan and Korea they do not give plastic bags at mini-marts. everyone knows that in japan and korea.

    however, in Singapore, every purchase is put into a plastic bag. although we are a small country, but the wastage is still a lot. its precisely we are small, thats why we have to curb our wastage~

    the research paper is too minimized at only a handful of countries. can do better.

  2. glassleaves on

    This study shows that the norm-activation model predicts environmental behavior when applied to other countries outside of the United States, unlike the study conducted by Lynnette C. Zelezny and P. Wesley Schultz (1998).

    However, I agree with you that based on the participant profile restriction, the results of this research is not accurate in representing the 6 different countries (Schultz et al, 2005, p 472). Participants are narrowly restricted to university students in courses of social or behavioral sciences, thus does not fully represent the countries, culture nor regions there were obtained from.

    As you have highlighted,
    1) self-transcendence is positively correlated with biospheric concerns. Because being self-transcendent means being concerned about other people and living things.
    2) self-enhancement is negatively correlated with biospheric concerns. Egoistic concerns of self-interest usually narrows environmental problems to only ones are direct threats to the self. Though I would argue that it really depends on what the individual includes within the representation of ‘self’. If a person includes aspects of nature in their representation of self, then self-enhancement would predict a positive environmental behavior.

    Schultz, P.W., & Zelezny, L. C. (1998). Values and proenvironmental behaviour: A five-country survey. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 29, 540-558.

    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), pp 457-475.

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