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Why are males not doing these environmental behaviors?: exploring males’ psychological barriers to environmental action


Previous research has reported that females are more likely than males to do pro-environmental behaviors. This research focused on understanding this relationship by exploring individual difference characteristics that may explain the sex difference, specifically traits and psychological barriers to pro-environmental action. Two studies (N = 246 and N = 357) confirm that males were less likely to report doing pro-environmental behaviors; males also reported more of Gifford’s (2011) Dragons of Inaction Psychological Barriers (DIP-Barriers) to pro-environmental action than females. Broad traits predicted pro-environmental attitudes and behaviors similar to past research, but they did not account for the sex difference. In addition, we suggest a new psychological barrier for males: perceptions of femininity may dissuade males from some pro-environmental behaviors. Results provide preliminary support for this idea and complement previous suggestions that environmentalism is perceived as more feminine. We discuss ways that future research can build on these suggestions with the ultimate goal of more effectively promoting environmentalism to males.

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  1. In this paper, sex (male & female) refers to biological sex at birth, whereas gender refers to gender identity the person feels internally (this generally connotes what it means to be a man or a women in a culture). We also explore masculinity and femininity in this study (assessed through the Traditional Masculinity-Femininity Scale; Kachel et al., 2016). Some previous research discussed in this paper did not explicitly identify whether sex, gender, or masculinity-femininity was assessed; in these cases we use the term used in those reports as our best guess.

  2. To easily compare the effect sizes, we mathematically transformed Pearson’s correlation r into Cohen’s d (see


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Acknowledgment of the qualitative data coding by Stephanie Woodall and Alyssa Ellenor.

This study with human participants was approved by Carleton University Research Ethics Board B (# 112099, February 10th 2020) and it was performed in line with the principles of the Declaration of Helsinki. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


This work was supported in part by funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council: #752–2020-2693; Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Insight Grant, #435–2020-0852.

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Correspondence to Jessica E. Desrochers.

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Desrochers, J.E., Zelenski, J.M. Why are males not doing these environmental behaviors?: exploring males’ psychological barriers to environmental action. Curr Psychol (2022).

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  • Environmentalism
  • Environmental behaviors
  • Dragons of inaction psychological barriers
  • Sex difference
  • Gender difference
  • Masculinity
  • Femininity