Jacob Hirsh, University of Toronto – Predicting Sustainability

Dr. Jacob Hirsh

Dr. Jacob Hirsh

Certain personality traits appear to have direct correlations with somewhat unrelated attitudes.

Dr. Jacob Hirsh, a professor at the Rotman School of Management, is looking at these connections and analyzing them to make larger predictions about specific trends on a national level.

Dr. Jacob Hirsh is an Assistant Professor of Organizational Behaviour and Human Resource Management at the University of Toronto’s Institute for Management & Innovation and Rotman School of Management. Dr. Hirsh teaches a course on managing sustainable organizations in the University of Toronto’s new M.Sc. in Sustainability Management program. His research interests focus on understanding the dynamics of human motivation, decision-making, and personality. He has published on a diverse range of topics in journals including Psychological Review, Psychological Science, Journal of Applied Psychology, and Perspectives on Psychological Science. Dr. Hirsh’s research has been featured in numerous media outlets including The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and The Globe and Mail.

Predicting Sustainability


Not everyone is equally concerned about the environment. Attitudes toward the environment can in fact be reliably predicted from an individual’s personality profile. People who are more concerned about the environment score higher on two key personality traits: Agreeableness and Openness. Agreeable people tend to be more empathetic and compassionate, while Open individuals are more imaginative and intuitive. Scoring higher on these trait dimensions is associated with more pro-environmental attitudes.

In a new study, this relationship was examined at the national level, using population differences in personality characteristics. National personality scores were obtained by averaging the personality profiles of over 12,000 people across 51 countries. These scores have been shown to predict a variety of population-level outcomes, including political preferences, well-being, and economic behavior.

In the new study, national personality scores were correlated with each country’s sustainability record as measured by the Environmental Performance Index.

This index ranks countries across 22 environmental indicators, including Co2 emission levels, use of renewable energy, and ecosystem management. Higher scores on this index, reflecting more environmentally sustainable practices, were positively correlated with national levels of the same two personality traits: Agreeableness and Openness. These effects remained even when controlling for national differences in wealth, education, and population size.

Just as an individual’s environmental attitudes can be predicted with these traits, so too can the sustainability records of entire countries be predicted from the personality profiles of their citizens.

Read More: Science Direct: Environmental sustainability and national personality