pro-environmental values in the arts sector

I’ve just written a blog for Mission Models Money re.think project on new insights into the potential for pro-environmental behaviour in the arts sector, that I’ve gained from re-visiting a research project I did a couple years ago on 21st century competencies, qualities and attributes. As part of a PhD project in the summer I re-analysed the data from a social psychology perspective.

In summary, I found that around half of those working in the arts and heritage sector are likely to strongly hold the kinds of self-transcendent values and intrinsic goals that social psychology research has demonstrated motivates enduring pro-environmental behaviour. The potential for this behaviour to be carried out by the sector is therefore high, which is very encouraging.

But the key question is whether the arts sector is actually realising this potential; and here it gets a lot less encouraging because my findings suggest that no, it is not.

Values are not the sole determinants of behaviour; there are many other factors that can get in the way and influence a person to act in ways not entirely in keeping with the values that they hold.

According to social psychology research, two important factors with regard to pro-environmental behaviour are awareness of consequences and ascription or sense of responsibility [1].

Connected to both of these factors is mindfulness, the moment-to-moment awareness of what is going on within and around you. Research finds that mindfulness is associated with ecologically responsible behaviour, lower materialism, less consumption (i.e. spending) over time, and higher reported choicefulness in daily life [2]. Empathy is associated with both mindfulness and sense of responsibility [3].

Clearly, if you don’t know what the impact of your actions is then how can you adapt your behaviour accordingly, and if you don’t feel responsibility for whatever is happening or empathise with the affected entities then why would you do anything about it.

Worryingly, ascription of responsibility appears to be relatively weak in the sector, with regard to pro-environmental behaviour. It would seem that sense of responsibility is not, on the whole, extending out to include all of nature. The result for awareness of consequences is less clear. Whilst there appears to be a propensity for mindfulness in the sector, it could be that mindfulness as a competency is not generally being applied to awareness of ecological consequences as it is to personal and interpersonal matters in the workplace.

I also speculate that arts and heritage professionals may be further inhibited in enacting intrinsic self-transcendent values by the systemic culture of short-termism exacerbated by high instability of income streams and lower generation of income through public funding as a consequence of the current economic crisis. These external conditions could contribute to a work context where opposing extrinsic goals and self-enhancement values are being primed in people.

To read the blog including findings on consumerism, connectedness and wellbeing click here. My re-investigation echoes other social psychology research in finding that Intrinsic value orientation, mindfulness and pro-environmental behaviour are all associated with higher subjective wellbeing [4].

My paper goes into it in much more depth, you can view it here: Mapping competencies to values_public


1. Schultz, P.W, et al. 2005. Values and their relationship to environmental concern and conservation behaviour. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 36(4) 457–475;
Milfont, T.L. et al. 2010. Testing the Moderating role of the Components of Norm Activation on the relationships between values and environmental behaviour, Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 41(1) 124-131
2. Brown, K.W. & Kasser, Y. 2005. Are psychological and ecological well-being compatible? The role of values, mindfulness and lifestyle. Social Indicators Research 74(2) 349-368
Brown K.W & Ryan, R.M. 2003. The benefits of being present: mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(4) 822-848
3. Williams, M. 2012. Power of the mind, Oxford Today, University of Oxford 24(3) Available at                  4. Brown, K.W. & Kasser, Y. 2005.

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1 Response to pro-environmental values in the arts sector

  1. Pingback: Frames about nature | cultureprobe

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