Examining Values Can Affect Climate Change


I recently read an article about conference organized by the Scottish Government in June of 2010 which focused on the ways that psychology could work to address issues of climate change. The conference focused on examining human values and behaviors.

There was an interesting chart that was included in the article, called Scwartz’s Value Circumplex which charts values such as achievement, power, security, benevolence, and others. Tim Kasser, who presented at the conference, writes about how in order to engage people in issues of global warming, people’s ‘intrinsic’ values such as universalism and benevolence need to be engaged as opposed to their ‘extrinsic’ values such as power and achievement.  These ideas and the chart are included in the The Common Cause Handbook, a publication which calls itself “A Guide to Values and Frames for Campaigners, Community Organizers, Civil Servants, Fundraisers, Educators, Social Entrepreneurs, Activist.”  This book available for free to  download from

This book and website were developed out of an effort in 2009 when several organizations from the U.K. including OxFam and World Wildlife Federation), and came together to discuss the inadequacy of current responses to challenges like climate change, global poverty and biodiversity loss. Research by experts in in social science and cognitive science was at the core of the discussion of how to approach motivating specific behaviors in individuals for social and environment change.

The handbook and website give an overview to values, talking about how values represent our guiding principles: our broadest motivations, influencing the attitudes we hold and how we act, why values matter, and how we use values.

How do values develop and change?   Over time, repeated engagement of values is likely to strengthen them.   Our repeated interactions with institutions (such as a school classroom, library, forest, or park) will affect our development of appreciation, achievement, or other values.  The interesting outcome of this type of thinking and analysis is that it has recently been implemented in order to adjust communication in order to appeal to the primary motivations of different groups of people.

Some examples are in order to promote volunteering, educational activities and charitable giving – this could be presented as opportunities personal gain. To promote value of human rights, these ideas can be promoted through fear, stating that any human rights abuse makes it less safe for all of us. Motiving environmental behavior can be promoted as “eco-chic” for those who value status, or as a way to save money for those who value being frugal.

The website has a lot of great resources, including some case studies you can review, an extended reading list, working groups you can join, and also a case study and blog area where you can contribute or participate  in a dialogue about these ideas.

Image Source:


The Common Cause Handbook

What Works in Behaviour Change?” Conference (28 June 2010)

Video – of Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us

About the Author

KbaumlierKristen Baumlier’s work spans the full spectrum of interdisciplinary media, including performance, interactive installation, video and audio works.View all posts by Kbaumlier →

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.