Do autistic traits predict pro-environmental attitudes and behaviors, and climate change belief?

Emily C. Taylor, Lucy A. Livingston, Mitchell J. Callan, Paul H.P. Hanel, Punit Shah

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The climate agenda has gathered extraordinary pace due to Greta Thunberg and other autistic environmentalists. Thunberg's autism is widely used to explain and celebrate, but also diminish and denigrate, her activism. However, despite speculation linking autism, pro-environmental action, and climate change belief, there is neither psychological theory nor empirical evidence on this topic. We therefore considered theoretical reasons for and against this potential association, and examined whether autistic traits were positively, if at all, linked to pro-environmental attitudes and behaviors, and climate change belief. In three preregistered studies (N = 2288), including nationally representative samples and well-powered frequentist and Bayesian analyses, we found substantial evidence that autistic traits were associated with engagement in fewer pro-environmental behaviors. Further, autistic traits were neither predictive of pro-environmental attitudes nor climate change belief. We conclude that, irrespective of environmental attitudes or climate change belief, autism and mental health conditions may present barriers for pro-environmental action. Suggestions for understanding the psychological factors underlying climate action and a more inclusive environmental agenda are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101648
JournalJournal of Environmental Psychology
Early online date8 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2021


  • Attitudes
  • Autism
  • Climate change
  • Environmentalism
  • Pro-environmental behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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