Entitlement is the belief that one deserves more or better than others, which can be reflected in desires or actual behaviors. Entitled persons pursue activities that benefit themselves, often at the expense of others. Unfortunately, entitlement may drive some to be environmentally unaware or unwilling to give up behaviors that are environmentally harmful.
As the global temperature rises, scientists are urging us to change our behavior, quickly, to save our planet. Environmental psychologists have been studying the relationship between individuals and their physical settings. They have illuminated the dissonance between environmental sustainability and entitlement. If environmental stewardship is to be viewed as the responsibility of some, as opposed to all, polluters are entitled to pollute regardless of how it may affect others.
A team led by Dr. Steven Arnocky examined entitlement as a predictor of environmental attitudes, pro-environmental behavior, and support of geoengineering, large-scale engineering projects designed to combat global climate change. The research team surveyed 437 undergraduates at a North American university and collected data on race, religion and gender.
Environmental attitudes were measured using the Environmental Attitude Inventory that captures two concepts about the environment; environmental protectionism and utilization (using and altering nature solely to meet human needs and desires).
As hypothesized, entitled individuals were more likely to support environmental utilization and reported weaker environmental protectionist attitudes.
As hypothesized, entitled individuals were more likely to support environmental utilization and reported weaker environmental protectionist attitudes. As a measure of pro-environmental behaviors, participants were given the opportunity to donate their $5 earnings from the study to the World Wildlife Foundation. Entitled individuals were more likely to keep the money for themselves.
Entitled persons were also more likely to support geoengineering than less entitled individuals. The investigators had predicted this relationship because geoengineering requires no personal effort or sacrifice; others do the work. Supporting geoengineering allows individuals to receive the social benefit of appearing to support the environment without changing their personal behaviors.
The researchers also found that men tended to be more entitled than women.
Arnocky and colleagues encourage more environmental psychology research to better understand how personality differences impact environmental behavior. In the meantime, we must learn to take care, instead of advantage, of our world before it is too late.
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