Below is the descriptor of new research between the University of Bath and Global Action Plan. The principal investigator [PI] is Lukas Wolf  and co-investigators are Professor Gregory Maio, Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh, Dr Elizabeth Marks, Dr Philip Howlett, Samuel Taylor, and Dr Natasha Parker (Global Action Plan)


The growing threat of the environmental crisis presents young people with a bleak prospect for the future and a sense of immense burden that often leaves them feeling hopeless. Part of the reason for this feeling of hopelessness is the common assumption that others care much less about the environment than they do. While a clear misperception, this assumption feeds a vicious cycle of dwindling hope and suppressed environmental engagement because any environmental action is expected to be isolated and therefore unlikely to make a difference to a global threat. It is therefore crucial to find ways to break this cycle and empower young people who will require resilience and sustained engagement to deal with the crisis.
The proposed research seeks to address this aim. It is based on robust evidence showing that people have highly similar human values (e.g., agreeing on the importance of protecting the environment or freedom) but often fail to recognise these similarities. We have found that this misperception is absent in young children, but from the age of 11, young people start to underestimate the similarities with peers, and this gap grows with age. Importantly, our work among adults has shown that making people aware of these similarities can close the gap and elicit a sense of connectedness with others. In light of young people’s important role in the environmental crisis, it is vital to examine how we can help young people discover their shared values to build hope and environmental engagement.

However, one crucial consideration is that it may not always be clear how shared, abstract values can be translated into concrete environmental action. For instance, while people may recognise that their value of protecting the environment is shared by peers, they may disagree about whether recycling is an effective means for achieving this value. In fact, past work suggests that a group of individuals needs an opportunity to exchange ideas to achieve socially coordinated action. The present research programme will test a combined approach that allows young people to discover their shared values and then use this new awareness in an exchange of ideas with peers to build value-based consensus around concrete goals for environmental action.

Together with our project partner, Global Action Plan UK (GAP), we will test this new approach through two large-scale studies with diverse samples of school students aged 12-14 and 16-18, and university students aged 18-24. Study 1 uses a cross-sectional design to provide a first correlational test of how shared values and exchanging ideas relates to hope and environmental action. Study 2 is a five-wave longitudinal experiment that presents young people with accurate information on value similarities and uses cutting-edge technology to allow them to exchange ideas and find consensus among diverse viewpoints. Across both studies, the project will examine additional research questions of theoretical and practical relevance, including whether highlighting similarities in some types of values (e.g., protecting the environment) is more effective than highlighting similarities across all values, and whether the effects of shared values and consensus differ depending on participants’ age, gender, and socioeconomic status, among other variables. Throughout the project, a young people advisory group will be consulted to inform study design and evaluate the findings.

Together with our project partner, GAP, we will produce a range of non-academic outputs, including non-technical summaries of the findings and recommendations for implementation of our intervention in newsletters, articles, videos, and workshops, which will be distributed to relevant stakeholders (e.g., schools, universities, MPs) through GAP’s well-established networks.


Pleased contact the PI for further details.

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