The association between anthropomorphism of nature and pro-environmental variables: A systematic review

Marc O. Williams, Lorraine Whitmarsh, Diarmait Mac Giolla Chríost

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

21 Citations (SciVal)
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It is taken for granted that anthropomorphising non-human species promotes pro-environmental attitudes and behaviours, but the literature appears to be conflicted on this topic. There is also little discussion in the literature as to whether there are different types of anthropomorphism that may be particularly associated with pro-environmental attitudes and behaviours. This is the first systematic review to address the hypothesis that there is a significant association between anthropomorphism of nature and pro-environmental variables, and that anthropomorphism has a beneficial causal role. This review synthesises results from 25 studies (18 correlational; seven experimental) in addressing this hypothesis, weighting its conclusions by an appraisal of study quality. This review presents evidence from high quality studies that mind attribution to non-human entities is consistently associated with pro-environmental variables, and that inducing anthropomorphic perceptions of non-human entities can generate pro-environmental outcomes in some circumstances. The authors also summarise the highest-quality evidence with regard to the possible mediators of the relationship between anthropomorphism and pro-environmental variables, and consider the findings through the lens of the theory of planned behaviour (Ajzen, 1991). The implications of the findings for future research and conservation campaigns are discussed alongside a note of caution about the limitations and potential disadvantages of anthropomorphism.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109022
JournalBiological Conservation
Early online date24 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Anthropomorphism
  • Attitudes
  • Conservation
  • Mind attribution
  • Pro-environmental behaviour
  • Systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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