Conservatives Care About Nature Too: Social Conservatism Predicts Moral Concern via the Small Self

Klebl, C. (University of Melbourne), Bastian. B. (University of Melbourne)

Environmental issues are highly politicised with the political left champion environmentalist political positions and emphasising care for nature. In two studies, we investigated a potential pathway through which conservatives feel moral concern for nature. Departing from the prevailing harm-based discourse, we examined whether conservatives are more likely to experience feelings of self-diminishment—a key response to the emotion of awe which is argued to have originated from subordination to powerful others (Keltner & Haidt, 2003)—and if this, in turn, might increase concern for nature. We found that social conservatism and the binding moral foundations (Authority, Ingroup, and Purity) predict moral concern for plants and animals via the small-self component of a dispositional measure of awe (Study 1), and that experimentally inducing awe elicits this effect (Study 2). These findings suggest that conservatives can care about nature too, through a pathway that appeals to their morality (i.e., respect for authority), and thus might contribute to finding ways that reduce polarisation on environmental issues.


Twitter: @ChristophKlebl

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Moral Psychology Symposium