Promoting Social-Environmental Participation and Well-being through Shared Values

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bath
Department Name: Psychology


Climate change, pollution and reduced biodiversity exemplify the dangers in managing collective resources such as our environment without sufficient co-ordination. Evidence suggests that collective action within communities is greater if members believe they share standards on how to behave in groups. Social psychology suggests that interventions highlighting shared values between individuals and groups of individuals may help to promote civic engagement with sustainability challenges like climate change by helping to develop shared identity.

Evidence from research on values in the last 50 years has generally supported Schwartz's model of values. This splits values in terms of whether they focus on growth or self-protection and whether they have a social or personal focus, resulting in four main groups of values: self-enhancement values such as success; self-transcendence values such as helpfulness; conservation values such as respecting tradition and openness values such as curiosity. Self-transcendence values in particular focus on compassion for others, the strength of which contributes to shared identity. Shared identity has itself been linked feelings of belongingness (associated with greater well-being) and shared subjective norms (associated with greater civic engagement).

Importantly, evidence consistently shows that people from diverse groups with often opposing interests share compassionate values far more than they believe they do. This is particularly true of environmental values: people (wrongly) believe that others value sustainability less than themselves. Following collection of baseline data on values within communities, the first main aim of this project is to examine the effects of an intervention designed to develop shared value identities on individual wellbeing, community cohesion and measures of prejudice and inclusivity. Cross-sectional studies will help to develop appropriate shared value interventions, and will be followed by more detailed longitudinal designs examining the long term effects of shared values interventions in more detail. The data will help to highlight areas where individuals fail to recognise similarity to others in terms of shared values, and the development of a successful shared values intervention could have large impacts in helping to develop strong senses of community cohesion in the face of challenges which require collective action such as climate change and the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The second main aim of this project is to establish whether building shared identities between opposing groups on contentious social and political issues helps to resolve differences. Previous research has highlighted that people with opposing political beliefs do share values, and that interventions aimed at highlighting these shared values may help to reduce intergroup animosity and foster open-minded engagement with the issues at hand. The data taken from these studies and the development of successful interventions to shape public debate into a more collaborate medium will have many applications to the development of schemes such as Citizen Advisory Groups, which are increasingly being touted as a means of resolving differences around issues such as Brexit and climate change.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000630/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2381066 Studentship ES/P000630/1 28/09/2020 27/09/2024 Samuel Taylor