Extroverts ‘too busy’ to be green

Unexpected result: Sianne Gordon-Wilson

Surprising result: Sianne Gordon-Wilson

Extroverts are the least likely to adopt green lifestyles because they’re distracted by their social life, activities and other people, according to new research.

Researchers at the University of Portsmouth Business School conducted a small-scale study of the over-50s to try and establish if personality type affects how green a person is.

They found that among the UK’s older population, those with open personalities are the most green, and extroverts are the least green. The findings are particularly pertinent in the light of G7 leaders recent agreement to phase out fossil fuels emissions.

Overall, older consumers are only moderately green and although they become more green with age, the findings suggest government, campaigners and advertisers should step up their attempts to educate older people to adopt green behaviours.

The research is published in Futures.

The researchers, Sianne Gordon-Wilson and Pratik Modi, say older consumers’ attitudes to being green was under-researched, particularly in light of the role that section of the population will play in the government’s target of reducing greenhouse emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.

Mrs Gordon-Wilson said: “Research hasn’t paid much attention to whether age or personality type has an effect on someone’s greenness.

“Older consumers are growing and their behaviour and attitudes will increasingly be important. Their attitudes are likely to have a powerful effect on Britain’s overall response to reducing greenhouse emissions.

“It isn’t surprising that people who we describe as open – those who are curious, imaginative and untraditional – are more likely to be green. But we were surprised that extroverts are less likely to be green. We had expected that of all the five main personality types, open and extrovert people would be the most green.”

Extroverts are or might be ‘reasonably green’, but it appears they are easily distracted from making further efforts or changes because other things were competing for their attention.

Green behaviour includes not leaving a television on standby, switching off lights, not letting taps run, buying recycled products and taking your own bags to the supermarket.

The study examined 204 people aged over 50 using two theories. Socio-emotional selectivity theory was used to gauge the influence of age on behaviour, particularly whether someone prefers emotion-related goals or knowledge-related goals. Time perspective theory is used to better understand how someone’s behaviour is influenced by how much time they think they have left to live.

Mrs Gordon-Wilson said: “A limitation of the previous research was it lumps all older people together. We know that someone in their early 50s will behave entirely differently to someone in their 70s. Someone aged 52 was born in the Sixties, a period of liberal social advances; they are likely to be working and have money and knowledge-related goals.

“People in their 70s are more aware they have less time left and consequently more likely to prioritise emotion-related goals, such as spending time with family. They are also from the post-War era and familiar with rationing and hardship.”

Despite clear differences among older people, the over-50s make up a third of the British population, making them an important group socially and politically, she said.


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