28 October 2021

Can we become more climate-friendly with the help of our personality traits?


With DKK 2.8 million from the Independent Research Fund Denmark, psychologists from the University of Copenhagen will investigate whether they can get participants to act more climate-friendly by adapting initiatives to their personality traits.

Wage sorting. Photo: Gervyn Louis, Unsplash
Wage sorting. Photo: Gervyn Louis, Unsplash

Human behaviour is an important factor in the fight against climate change. But what does it take for us to change our habits in order to make them more climate-friendly? In this context, personality traits play a role – perhaps.

In a new project, psychologist Ingo Zettler from the University of Copenhagen will test whether initiatives that will make us act more climate-friendly work better if they are adapted to our specific personality traits.

"We know that personality plays a crucial role in our way of acting in our daily lives. The aim of this investigation is to examine whether we can use this knowledge to make people act more sustainably," says Ingo Zettler.

Ingo Zettler
Ingo Zettler

The project will test different ways of getting participants to act more climate-friendly. The different ways have been selected based on existing knowledge about what causes us to change our behaviour. The purpose of the research is to see which method is the most effective.

From 'one size fits all' to targeted initiatives

The purpose of the project is to learn more about which initiatives work for which groups of people based on their personality traits, so that future initiatives can be more effective. The aim is not, however, underlines Ingo Zettler, to enable governments to gain access to specific knowledge about our individual personality traits. His hope is that the project can provide knowledge about the significance of specific personality traits for our behaviour in relation to climate issues, and contribute to our awareness about what we can do to act more climate friendly.

"What's special about the project is that we combine what we already know about what can generally make people act more climate-friendly, with new ideas about what works for whom in particular. So, if our hypothesis turns out to hold true, we will be able to move away from the so-called ' one-size-fits-all ' solutions, "says Ingo Zettler.

Green Grant from the Independent research Fund Denmark

The project "Turning Green: Fostering pro-environmental behaviour through an intervention targeting people's personality" has been funded by DKK 2.8 million from the Independent Research Fund Denmark's green transition pool.

The project is one of 55 green research projects funded by the Independent Research Fund Denmark with a total of DKK 280 million.

Each research project is funded with DKK 2.8-11.9 million and runs over two to five years.

Read more about the award from the Independent Research Fund Denmark (in Danish).


Professor Ingo Zettler
Department of Psychology
Phone: +45 35 32 48 50
Mail: ingo.zettler@psy.ku.dk


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