How Concerned, Afraid and Hopeful Are We? Effects of Egoism and Altruism on Climate Change Related Issues


The idea that concerns for and emotional reactions to climate change may be due to environment-related egoism and altruism was tested. Participants assessed as “high” on egoism were shown to be more concerned for myself-related issues and afraid of the climate change impact on their local environment, indicating a self-benefit goal motive. Participants assessed as “high” on altruism were those more concerned for issues related to others and nature and more afraid and less hopeful for the whole world, indicating a pro-social goal motive in this group of individuals. This indicates that environment-related value orientations of egoism and altruism may prompt concerns and convey feelings differently about the climate change issue. Accordingly, when encouraging sustainable development, policy and pro-environmental actions, we have to bear in mind people’s world views grounded in environment-related selfishness vs. unselfishness; indicating different goal-directed motives in climate change decision making.

Share and Cite:

Knez, I. (2013). How Concerned, Afraid and Hopeful Are We? Effects of Egoism and Altruism on Climate Change Related Issues. Psychology, 4, 744-752. doi: 10.4236/psych.2013.410106.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Batson, C. D. (1991). The altruism question: Toward a social psychological answer. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
[2] Batson, C. D. (1995). Prosocial motivation: Why do we help others? In A. Tesser (Ed.), Advanced social psychology (pp. 333-381). New York: McGraw-Hill.
[3] Batson, C. D. (1998). Altruism and prosocialbehavior. In D. T. Gilbert, S. T. Fiske, & G. Lindzey (Eds.), The handbook of social psychology (4th Edition, pp. 282-316). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill.
[4] Batson, C. D., Van Lange, P. A. M., Ahmad, N., & Lishner, D. A. (2003). Altruism and helping behavior. In M. A. Hogg, & J. Cooper (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of social psychology (pp. 279-295). London: SAGE Publications.
[5] Biel, A., & Thogerson, J. (2007). Activation of social norms in social dilemmas: A review of the evidence and reflections on the implications for environmental behavior. Journal of Economic Psychology, 28, 93-112.
[6] Boehnke, K., Fuss, D., & Rupf, M. (2001). Values and well-being: The mediating roles of worries. In P. Schmuck, & K. M. Sheldon (Eds.), Life-goals and wellbeing: Towards a positive psychology of human striving (pp. 85-101). Seattle: Hogrefe & Huber Publishers.
[7] Bonnes, M., & Bonaiuto, M. (2002). Environmental psychology: From spatial-physical Environment to sustainable development. In R. B. Bechtel, & A. Churchman (Eds.), Handbook of environmental psychology (pp. 28-54). New York: John Wiley & Sons.
[8] Bohm, G., & Pfister, H.-R. (2001). Mental representations of global environmental risks. Research in Social Problems and Public Policy, 9, 1-30.
[9] Cook, D. M., Boyd, E. A., Grossmann, C., & Bero, L. A. (2009). Journalists and conflicts of interest in science: Beliefs and practices. Ethics in science and environmental politics, 9, 33-40.
[10] Cialdini, R. B., Brown, S. L., Lewis, B. P., Luce, C., & Neuberg, S. L. (1997). Reinterpreting the empathy-altruism relationship: When one into one equals oneness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 481-494.
[11] DeCoster, J., Iselin, A.-M. R., & Galluci, M. (2009). A conceptual and empirical examination of justifications for dichotomization. Psychological Methods, 4, 349-366.
[12] Dietz, T., Fitzgerald, A., & Shwom, R. (2005). Environmental values. Annual Review of Environmental Resources, 30, 335-372.
[13] Ehrich, P. R. (2002). Human nature, nature conservation and environmental ethics. BioScience, 52, 31-43.[0031:HNNCAE]2.0.CO;2
[14] Garcia-Mira, R., Real, J. E., & Romay, J. (2005). Temporal and spatial dimensions in the perception of environmental problems: An investigation of the concept of environmental hyperopia. International Journal of Psychology, 1, 5-10.
[15] Gardiner, S. M. (2006). A perfect moral storm: Climate change intergenerational ethics and the problem of moral corruption. Environmental Values, 15, 397-413.
[16] Hansla, A., Gamble, A., Juliusson, A., & Garling, T. (2008). The relationships between awareness of consequences, environmental concern, and value orientations. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 28, 1-9.
[17] Hanson, K. C., & Ostrand, K. G. (2011). Potential effects of global climate change on National Fish Hatchery operations in the Pacific Northwest, USA. Aquaculture Environment Interactions, 1, 175-186.
[18] Hardin, G. (1968). The tragedy of the common. Science, 162, 1243-1248.
[19] Henry, A. D., & Dietz, T. (2012). Understanding environmental cognition. Organization & Environment, 3, 238-258.
[20] Hoffman, A. J., & Sandelands, L. E. (2005). Getting right with nature: Anthropocentrism, ecocentrism, and theocentrism. Organization & Environment, 2, 141-162.
[21] IPCC (2007). Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. AR4 Synthesis report, Full Report.
[22] Jordan, S. M. (2007). Ethical risks of attenuating climate change through new energy systems: The case of a biofuel system. Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics, 9, 23-29.
[23] Karpiak, C., & Baril, G. L. (2008). Moral reasoning and concern for the environment. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 28, 203-208.
[24] Koppe, C. G., Jendritzky, R. S., Kovats, & Menne B. (2004). Heat waves: Risks and responses. Copenhagen: World Health Organization.
[25] Kortenkamp, K.V., & Moore, C. F. (2006). Time, uncertainty, and individual differences in decisions to cooperate in resource dilemmas. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 5, 603-615.
[26] Knez, I. (2005). Attachment and identity as related to a place and its perceived climate. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 25, 207-218.
[27] Kurz, T., Augoustinos, M., & Crabb, S. (2010). Contesting the “national interest” and maintaining “our lifestyle”: A discursive analysis of political rhetoric around climate change. British Journal of Social Psychology, 49, 601-625.
[28] Light, A., & Katz, E. (1996). Environmental pragmatism. London: Routledge.
[29] Leiserowitz, A. (2006). Climate change risk perception and policy preferences: The role of affect, imagery, and values. Climate Change, 77, 45-72.
[30] Leopold, A. (1949/1987). A sand county almanac and sketches here and there. New York: Oxford University Press.
[31] Lewin, K. (1951). Field theory in social science. New York: Harper.
[32] Liebert, R. M., & Liebert, L. L. (1995).Science and behavior: An introduction to methods of psychological research. New York: Prentice Hall.
[33] Loewenstein, G. F., Weber, E. U., Hsee, C. K., & Welch, N. (2001). Risk as feelings. Psychological Bulletin, 2, 267-286.
[34] Maner, J. K., & Gailliot, M. T. (2007). Altruism and egoism: Prosocial motivations for helping depend on relationship context. European Journal of Social Psychology, 37, 347-358.
[35] Maner, J. K., Luce, C. L., Neuberg, S. L., Cialdini, R. B., Brown, S., & Sagarin, B. J. (2002). The effects of perspective taking on helping: Still no evidence for altruism. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28, 1601-1610.
[36] Markham, A. (1996). Potential impacts of climate change on ecosystems: A review of implications for policymakers and conservation biologists. Climate Research, 6, 179-191.
[37] Marx, S. M., Weber, E. U., Orlove, B. S., Leiserowitz, A., Krantz, D. H., Roncoli, C., & Phillips, J. (2007). Communication and mental processes: Experiential and analytic processing of uncertain climate information. Global Environmental Change, 17, 47-58.
[38] Menzel, S., & Bogeholz, S. (2010). Values, beliefs and norms that foster Chilean and German pupils’ commitment to protect biodiversity. International Journal of Environmental & Science Education, 1, 31-49.
[39] Merchant, C. (1992). Radical ecology: The search for a liveable world. New York: Routledge.
[40] McGuigan, F. J. (1983). Experimental psychology: Methods of research. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Inc.
[41] Milfont, T. L., Abrahamse, W., & McCarthy, N. (2011). Spatial and temporal biases in assessments of environmental conditions in New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Psychology, 40, 56-67.
[42] Neyer, F. J., & Lang, F. R. (2003). Blood is thicker than water: Kinship orientation across adulthood. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 310-321.
[43] Oceja, L., & Salgado, S. (2012). Why do we help? World change orientation as an antecedent of prosocial action. European Journal of Social Psychology, 43, 127-136.
[44] Ojala, M. (2005). Adolescents’ worries about environmental risks: Subjective well-being, values, and existential dimensions. Journal of Youth Studies, 3, 331-347.
[45] Ojala, M. (2007). Hope and worry: Exploring young people’s values, emotions, and behaviour regarding global environmental problems. Doctoral Dissertation, Orebro: Orebro University.
[46] Olofsson, A., & Ohman, S. (2006). General beliefs and environmental concern: Transatlantic comparison. Environment and Behavior, 6, 768-790.
[47] Oreg, S., & Gerro, T. K. (2006). Predicting proenvironmental behavior cross-nationally: Values, the theory of planned behavior, and valuebelief-norm theory. Environment and Behavior, 38, 462-483.
[48] Peters, E., & Slovic, P. (2000). The springs of action: Affective and analytical information processing in choice. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 26, 1465-1475.
[49] Posas, P. (2007). Roles of religion and ethics in addressing climate change. Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics, 2007, 31-49.
[50] Post, S. G. (2005). Altruism, happiness, and health: It’s good to be good. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 2, 66-77.
[51] Rabinovich, A., Morton, T. A., Postmes, T., & Verplanken, B. (2011). Collective self and individual choice: The effects of inter-group comparative context on environmental values and behaviour. British Journal of Social Psychology, 51, 551-569.
[52] Saad, L. (2002). American sharply divided on seriousness of global warming. Gallup Poll Monthly (Report No. 438, pp. 43-48). Princeton, NJ: Gallup.
[53] Schmuck, P., & Vlek, C. (2003). Psychologists can do much to support sustainable development. European Psychologist, 2, 66-76.
[54] Schroeder, D. A., Penner, L. A., Dovidio, J. F., & Piliavin, J. A. (1995). The psychology of helping and altruism: Problems and puzzles. New York: McGraw-Hill.
[55] Schultz, P. W. (2001). The structure of environmental concern: Concern for self, other people, and the biosphere. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 21, 1-13.
[56] Schultz, P. W., Gouveia, V. V., Cameron, L. D., Tankha, G., Schmuck, P., & Franek, M. (2005). Values and their relationship to environmental concern and conservation behavior. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 36, 457-475.
[57] Schwartz, S. H. (1992). Universals in the content and structure of values: Theoretical advances and empirical tests in 20 countries. In M. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental psychology (pp. 1-65). Orlando, FL: Academic Press.
[58] Schwartz, S. H. (1994). Are there universal aspects in the structure and contents of human values? Journal of Social Issues, 50, 19-45.
[59] Slovic, P., Finucane, M. L., Peters, E., & MacGregor, D. G. (2002). The affect heuristic. In T. Gilovich, D. Griffin, & D. Kahneman (Eds.), Heuristics and biases: The psychology of intuitive judgment (pp. 397-420). New York: Cambridge University Press.
[60] Sparks, P., Jessop, D. C., Chapman, J., & Holmes, K. (2010). Proenvironmental actions, climate change, and defensiveness: Do selfaffirmations make a difference to people’s motives and beliefs about making a difference? British Journal of Social Psychology, 49, 553-568.
[61] Smith, J. B., & Lenhart, S. S. (1996). Climate change adaptation policy options. Climate Research, 6, 193-201.
[62] Stehr, N., & Von Storch, H. (1995). The social construct of climate and climate change. Climate Research, 5, 99-105.
[63] Stern, N. (2006). The economics of climate change: The stern review. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
[64] Stern, P. C. (2000). Toward a coherent theory of environmentally significant behavior. Journal of Social Issues, 56, 407-424.
[65] Stern, P. C., & Dietz, T. (1994). The value basis of environmental concern. Journal of Social Issues, 50, 65-84.
[66] Stern, P., Dietz, T., & Kalof, L. (1993). Value orientations, gender, and environmental concern. Environment and Behavior, 25, 322-348.
[67] Stocks, E. L., Lishner, D. A., & Decker, S. K. (2008). European Journal of Social Psychology, 39, 649-665.
[68] Sundblad, E.-L., Biel, A., & Garling, T. (2007). Cognitive and affective risk judgements related to climate change. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 27, 97-106.
[69] Sundblad, E.-L., Biel, A., & Garling, T. (2009). Knowledge and confidence in knowledge about climate change among experts, journalists, politicians, and laypersons. Environment and Behavior, 2, 281-302.
[70] Tabachnick, B. G., & Fidell, L. S. (1989). Using multivariate statistics. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc.
[71] UNCED (United Nations Conference on Environment and Development) (1992). Convention on Biological Diversity. Rio de Janeiro: UNCED.
[72] UNWTO (2008). Climate change and tourism: Responding to global challenges. World Tourism Organization and United Nations Environment. Madrid: World Tourism Organization.
[73] Van Vugt, M. (2002). Central, individual, or collective control? American Behavioral Scientist, 5, 783-800.
[74] Weber, E. U. (2006). Experience-based and description-based perceptions of long-term risk: Why global warming does not scare us. Climatic Change, 77, 103-120.
[75] Wilson, K. M. (2000). Drought, debate, and uncertainty: Measuring reports knowledge and ignorance about climate change. Public Understanding of Science, 9, 1-13.
[76] World Resource Institute (2000). World resources 2000-2001—People and ecosystems: The fraying web of life.

Copyright © 2021 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.