Dark personalities perceive pro-environmental behaviors as more costly and less beneficial

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According to a new study published in Frontiers in Psychology. The results provide evidence that personality traits influence how people perceive the costs and benefits associated with pro-environmental behaviors.

“Given the impending climate crisis, I personally continue to wonder why people (despite better knowledge) don’t behave in more environmentally friendly ways,” said study author Jana Sophie Kesenheimer. , postdoctoral researcher at the Leopold-Franzens University of Innsbruck. “There are psychological theories (eg the ‘Campbell’s paradigm’) that take into account the cost/benefit ratios of environmentally conscious decision-making. Our goal for the study was to relate these situational costs and benefits to personality and attitude.

Kesenheimer and his colleagues were particularly interested in the so-called “light triad” and “dark tetrad” of the personality.

The mild triad is a group of three personality traits associated with positive characteristics such as honesty, empathy, and dependability. The three traits are Kantianism, faith in humanity and humanism. People raised in these traits agree with statements such as “I prefer honesty to charm” (Kantianism), “I tend to see the best in people” (faith in humanity) and ” I tend to treat others as precious” (humanism).

The Black Tetrad is a group of four personality traits associated with harmful behaviors. The four traits are sadism, narcissism, Machiavellianism, and subclinical psychopathy. People raised in these traits agree with statements such as “I hurt others for my own pleasure” (sadism), “People see me as a natural leader” (narcissism), “I like it when a plan delicate succeeds” (Machiavellianism), and “People who bother me always regret it” (psychopathy).

The original study included 176 participants between the ages of 18 and 68. Participants completed scientific assessments of light and dark personality traits, as well as a measure of pro-environmental attitudes. After completing this first survey, participants received a notification on their smartphone three times a day for seven consecutive days asking them if they had “acted in a pro-environmental way at least once in the last 4 hours”. Participants were then asked to assess the costs and benefits associated with these behaviors.

The most frequently reported pro-environmental behaviors were related to food intake, such as eating vegetarian or locally grown foods. The second most frequently reported pro-environmental behaviors were related to energy and water conservation, such as dressing warmer rather than turning up the heat.

People with more pro-environmental attitudes and people with stronger mild personality traits tended to engage in pro-environmental behaviors more frequently. Those with stronger dark personality traits, on the other hand, tended to engage in pro-environmental behaviors less frequently. Similarly, people with more pro-environmental attitudes and people with stronger light personality traits tended to view behaviors as having greater benefits, while those with stronger dark personality traits viewed behaviors as having fewer benefits.

However, people with stronger dark personality traits reported engaging in more costly behaviors, while the reverse was true among those with stronger light personality traits.

But do people with dark personality traits really engage in more costly pro-environmental actions than those with light personality traits? The researchers were skeptical. They proposed that the observed effect was the result of differences in the perception of what is ‘expensive’.

“We originally wanted to show that personality and attitude are more influential in high-cost/low-benefit situations, but are less predictive in high-benefit/low-cost situations (because most people should be pro -environmental in the latter case),” Kesenheimer explained. second opinion from an independent person (in Study 2) to assess people’s actions in the first survey.

In the second study, a sample of 159 people saw and rated the pro-environmental behaviors reported by participants in the first study. The results confirmed the researchers’ suspicions.

“Most importantly, we were able to show that, depending on a person’s personality and attitude, there can be a very subjective perception of the costs and benefits of a situation,” Kesenheimer told PsyPost.

“For example, one rather ‘dark’ personality described a lot of effort to use a lid to cook (he first had to remove the lid from the drawer). Other people described the same situation on average as less expensive. If you asked a “light” personality or a very environmentally conscious person to do their assessment, they would likely see much lower costs and high benefits in the same behavior as the “dark” person.

“We were thus able to show that the costs and benefits of an environmentally conscious decision-making situation are anything but clear, but strongly depend on a person’s personality and attitude: some might still see a benefit in any environmental behavior, others simply in general. see the high costs involved. explained the researcher.

The study, “Going Green Is Exhausting for Dark Personalities but Beneficial for Light People: An Experience Sampling Study That Examines the Subjectivity of Pro-Environmental Behavior,” was authored by Jana Sophie Kesenheimer and Tobias Greitemeyer .

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