A new study suggests loving others goes hand-in-hand with loving the environment.
The study, conducted by Stefan Pfattheicher, a post-doctoral student and lecturer at Ulm University in Germany, showed people who are more sympathetic toward each other tend to be more sympathetic and compassionate toward nature.
While conducting the study published March 10, researchers showed participants photos of people suffering and then asked a series of questions to gauge the participants’ sympathy toward the environment and toward others.
“We become conscious of our own vulnerability and become connected through it,” said Ron Chandler, a sustainability psychologist and environmental scientist as well as the interim director of sustainability studies at UF. “We then recognize our environment is vulnerable, then we become empathic toward our environment and toward nature.”
Pfattheicher and his colleagues assessed the participants’ compassionate tendencies for other humans, their pro-environmental values, their pro-environmental intentions and whether they have donated money to nature or environmental organizations.
Martha Monroe, a UF professor of environmental education and extension, said some people feel connected to themselves, some people feel connected to others and some people feel connected to nature.
“It depends on how people perceive others,” she said of the study. “It can extend to non-human others.”
[A version of this story ran on page 5 on 3/25/2015 under the headline “Study: compassionate individuals connect better with nature”]