Skip to main content

The Gender Gap in Environmental Attitudes: A System Justification Perspective

  • Chapter
  • First Online:
Research, Action and Policy: Addressing the Gendered Impacts of Climate Change

Abstract

System justification refers to a psychological tendency to maintain certainty, security, and solidarity through motivated perceptions of the status quo and the extant socioeconomic system as beneficial, fair, stable, and legitimate, especially in response to dependency and threat. System justification impedes efforts to address societal challenges, and in particular gives rise to denial, resistance, and inaction in the face of climate change and environmental problems. Women chronically engage in less system justification than men, and this difference partially explains women’s greater willingness to acknowledge ecological problems and risks and to engage in actions that are beneficial for the environment. We demonstrate that reframing environmental messages as consistent with upholding the established way of life and the well-being of our society gives rise to increased support for environmental efforts on the part of those who are especially motivated to justify the system and can therefore help to narrow the ideological gap in environmental attitudes and behaviors.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Chapter
USD 29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
eBook
USD 84.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Softcover Book
USD 109.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Compact, lightweight edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info
Hardcover Book
USD 109.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Durable hardcover edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions

Similar content being viewed by others

References

  • Altemeyer B (1998) The other “authoritarian personality”. In: Zanna MP (ed) Advances in experimental social psychology, vol 30. Academic, New York, pp 47–92

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Antal M, Hukkinen JI (2010) The art of the cognitive war to save the planet. Ecol Econ 69:937–943

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Aoyagi-Usui M, Vinken H, Kuribayashi A (2003) Pro-environmental attitudes and behaviors: an international comparison. Hum Ecol Rev 10:23–31

    Google Scholar 

  • Arnocky S, Stroink ML (2011) Gender differences in environmental concern and cooperation: the mediating role of emotional empathy. Curr Res Soc Psychol 16:1–14

    Google Scholar 

  • Axelrod LJ, Suedfeld P (1995) Technology, capitalism, and Christianity: are they really the three horsemen of the eco-collapse? J Environ Psychol 15:183–195

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Baron RM, Kenny DA (1986) The moderator-mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: conceptual, strategic, and statistical considerations. J Pers Soc Psychol 51:1173–1182

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Begley S (2007) The truth about denial. Newsweek. Retrieved on 14 Aug 2007 from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20122975/site/newsweek/-COVER

  • Bord RJ, O’Connor RE (1997) The gender gap in environmental attitudes. Soc Sci Q 78:830–840

    Google Scholar 

  • Brody SD, Zahran S, Vedlitz A, Grover H (2008) Examining the relationship between physical vulnerability and public perceptions of global climate change in the United States. Environ Behav 41:72–95

    Google Scholar 

  • Carrier SJ (2007) Gender differences in attitudes toward environmental science. Sch Sci Math 107:271–278

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Clayton S, Brook A (2005) Can psychology help save the world? A model for conservation psychology. Anal Soc Issues Public Policy 5:1–15

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Conover PJ, Sapiro V (1993) Gender, feminist consciousness, and war. Am J Political Sci 37:1079–1099

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Davidson DJ, Freudenburg WR (1996) Gender and environmental risk concerns. Environ Behav 28:302–339

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dietz T, Kalof L, Stern PC (2002) Gender, values, and environmentalism. Soc Sci Q 83:351–364

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Doherty TJ, Clayton S (2011) The psychological impacts of global climate change. Am Psychol 66:265–276

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dunlap RE, McCright AM (2008) A widening gap: republican and democratic views on climate change. Environment 50:26–35

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dunlap RE, van Liere KD, Mertig AG, Jones RE (2000) New trends in measuring environmental attitudes: measuring endorsement of the new ecological paradigm: a revised NEP scale. J Soc Issues 56:425–442

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Egan PJ, Mullin M (2012) Turning personal experience into political attitudes: the effect of local weather on Americans’ perceptions about global warming. J Politics 74(3):796–809

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Feinberg M, Willer R (2011) Apocalypse soon? Dire messages reduce belief in global warming by contradicting just-world beliefs. Psychol Sci 22:34–38

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Festinger L (1957) A theory of cognitive dissonance. Row, Peterson, Evanston

    Google Scholar 

  • Feygina I, Goldsmith R, Jost JT (2010a) System justification and environmental goal-setting: self-regulation failure as an obstacle to overcoming addiction to the status quo. In: Hassin R, Ochsner K, Trope Y (eds) Social cognitive and neuroscientific approaches to self-control. Oxford University Press, New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Feygina I, Jost JT, Goldsmith R (2010b) System justification, the denial of global warming, and the possibility of “system-sanctioned change”. Pers Soc Psychol Bull 36:326–338

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gardner GT, Stern PC (2002) Environmental problems and human behavior (2nd ed). Boston, MA: Pearson Custom Publishing

    Google Scholar 

  • Gifford R (2011) The dragons of inaction: psychological barriers that limit climate change mitigation and adaptation. Am Psychol 66:290–302

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gupte M (2002) Gender, feminist consciousness, and the environment: exploring the “natural” connection. Women Politics 24:47–62

    Google Scholar 

  • Hamilton LC (2008) Who cares about polar regions? Arct Antarct Alp Res 40:671–678

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Heath Y, Gifford R (2006) Free-market ideology and environmental degradation: the case of belief in global climate change. Environ Behav 38:48–71

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hollander NC (2009) When not knowing allies with destructiveness: global warming and psychoanalytic ethical non-neutrality. Int J Appl Psychoanal Stud 6:1–11

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hunter LM, Hatch A, Johnson A (2004) Cross-national gender variation in environmental behaviors. Soc Sci Q 85:677–694

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jackman M (1994) The velvet glove: paternalism and conflict in gender, class, and race relations. University of California Press, Berkeley

    Google Scholar 

  • Jost JT, Hunyady O (2002) The psychology of system justification and the palliative function of ideology. Eur Rev Soc Psychol 13:111–153

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jost JT, Hunyady O (2005) Antecedents and consequences of system-justifying ideologies. Curr Dir Psychol Sci 14:260–265

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jost JT, Kay AC (2005) Exposure to benevolent sexism and complementary gender stereotypes: consequences for specific and diffuse forms of system justification. J Pers Soc Psychol 88:498–509

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jost JT, Thompson EP (2000) Group-based dominance and opposition to equality as independent predictors of self-esteem, ethnocentrism, and social policy attitudes among African Americans and European Americans. J Exp Soc Psychol 36:209–232

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jost JT, Glaser J, Kruglanski AW, Sulloway F (2003) Political conservatism as motivated social cognition. Psychol Bull 129:339–375

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jost JT, Banaji MR, Nosek BA (2004) A decade of system justification theory: accumulated evidence of conscious and unconscious bolstering of the status quo. Political Psychol 25:881–919

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jost JT, Ledgerwood A, Hardin CD (2008a) Shared reality, system justification, and the relational basis of ideological beliefs. Soc Pers Psychol Compass 2:171–186

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jost JT, Nosek BA, Gosling SD (2008b) Ideology: its resurgence in social, personality, and political psychology. Perspect Psychol Sci 3:126–136

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kay AC, Jost JT (2003) Complementary justice: effects of “poor but happy” and “poor but honest” stereotype exemplars on system justification and implicit activation of the justice motive. J Pers Soc Psychol 85:823–837

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kendall HA, Lobao LM, Sharp JS (2006) Public concern with animal well-being: place, social structural location, and individual experience. Rural Sociol 71:399–428

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kollmuss A, Agyeman J (2002) Mind the gap: why do people act environmentally and what are the barriers to pro-environmental behavior? Environ Educ Res 8:239–260

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Leiserowitz A (2006) Climate change risk perception and policy preferences. Clim Chang 77:45–72

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Malka A, Krosnick JA, Langer G (2009) The association of knowledge with concern about global warming. Risk Anal 29:633–647

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • McCright AM (2010) The effects of gender on climate change knowledge and concern in the American public. Popul Environ 32:66–87

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • McCright AM, Dunlap RE (2011) Cool dudes: the denial of climate change among conservative white males in the United States. Glob Environ Chang 21:1163–1172

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Moran M (2011) Psychiatry needs eyes wide open about environmental issues. Psychiatr News 46:17

    Google Scholar 

  • Norgaard KM (2011) Living in denial: climate change, emotions, and everyday life. Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, Cambridge, MA

    Google Scholar 

  • Norgaard K, York R (2005) Gender equality and state environmentalism. Gend Soc 19:506–522

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • O’Brien LT, Major BM (2005) System-justifying beliefs and psychological well-being: the roles of group status and identity. Personal Soc Psychol Bull 31:1718–1729

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • O’Connor RE, Bord RJ, Fisher A (1999) Risk perceptions, general environmental beliefs, and willingness to address climate change. Risk Anal 19:461–471

    Google Scholar 

  • Rankin L, Jost JT, Wakslak CJ (2009) System justification and the meaning of life: are the existential benefits of ideology distributed unevenly across racial groups? Soc Justice Res 22:312–333

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Riechard DE, Peterson SJ (1998) Perception of environmental risk related to gender, community socioeconomic setting, age, and locus of control. J Environ Educ 30:11–19

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Saad L (2007) To Americans, the risks of global warming are not imminent. Gallup Poll. Retrieved 9 Apr 2007 from http://www.galluppoll.com/content/?ci=27100&pg=1

  • Semenza JC, Ploubidis GB, George LA (2011) Climate change and climate variability: personal motivation for adaptation and mitigation. Environ Health 10(46)

    Google Scholar 

  • Shepherd S, Kay AC (2012) On the perpetuation of ignorance: system dependence, system justification, and the motivated avoidance of socio-political information. J Pers Soc Psychol 102:264–280

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Shiva V (1989) Staying alive: women, ecology and development. Zed Books, London

    Google Scholar 

  • Shrivastava P (1995) Industrial/environmental crises and corporate social responsibility. J Socio-Econ 24:211–227

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sidanius J, Pratto F (1999) Social dominance: an intergroup theory of social hierarchy and oppression. Cambridge University Press, New York

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Stern P, Dietz T, Kalof L (1993) Value orientations, gender, and environmental concern. Environ Behav 25:322–348

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Stoll-Kleemann S, O’Riordan T, Jaeger CC (2001) The psychology of denial concerning climate mitigation measures: evidence from Swiss focus groups. Glob Environ Chang 11:107–117

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sundblad E-L, Biel A, Gärling T (2007) Cognitive and affective risk judgments related to climate change. J Environ Psychol 27:97–106

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Swim JK, Clayton S, Doherty T, Gifford R, Howard G, Reser J, Stern P, Weber E (2009) Psychology and global climate change: addressing a multi-faceted phenomenon and set of challenges (A report by the American Psychological Association’s task force on the interface between psychology and global climate change). American Psychological Association, Washington, DC

    Google Scholar 

  • Swim JK, Clayton S, Howard GS (2011) Human behavioral contributions to climate change: psychological and contextual drivers. Am Psychol 66:251–264

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Takacs-Santa A (2007) Barriers to environmental concern. Hum Ecol Rev 14:26–38

    Google Scholar 

  • Tjernström E, Tietenberg T (2008) Do differences in attitudes explain differences in national climate change policies? Ecol Econ 65:315–324

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tranter B (2011) Political divisions over climate change and environmental issues in Australia. Environ Politics 20:78–96

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wakslak C, Jost JT, Tyler TR, Chen E (2007) Moral outrage mediates the dampening effect of system justification on support for redistributive social policies. Psychol Sci 18:267–274

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wang AY (1999) Gender and nature: a psychological analysis of ecofeminist theory. J App Soc Psychol 29:2410–2424

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wehrmeyer W, McNeil M (2000) Activists, pragmatists, technophiles and tree-huggers? Gender differences in employees’ environmental attitudes. J Bus Ethics 28:211–222

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • White L Jr (1967) The historic roots of our ecological crisis. Science 55:1203–1207

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Whitley BE (1999) Right-wing authoritarianism, social dominance orientation, and prejudice. J Pers Soc Psychol 77:126–134

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • World Bank (2009) Public attitudes toward climate change: findings from a multi-country poll. In: World development report 2010: development and climate change. World Bank, Washington, DC

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Zelezny LC, Chua P, Aldrich C (2000) Elaborating on gender differences in environmentalism. J Soc Issues 56:443–457

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Rachel E. Goldsmith .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2013 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht

About this chapter

Cite this chapter

Goldsmith, R.E., Feygina, I., Jost, J.T. (2013). The Gender Gap in Environmental Attitudes: A System Justification Perspective. In: Alston, M., Whittenbury, K. (eds) Research, Action and Policy: Addressing the Gendered Impacts of Climate Change. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-5518-5_12

Download citation

Publish with us

Policies and ethics